It is common for contractors and others to be commissioned to provide services on behalf of a BinJ. Action taken under such arrangements is, in effect, action taken on behalf of the relevant authority in the exercise of its functions.
Our duty to give an opportunity to comment to any person who is alleged (or appears to us) to have taken, or authorised, the action complained of extends to those contractors and others. It also extends to former employees. Our standard enquiry letter asks the BinJ to ensure that such parties are given the opportunity to comment. However, we may need to consider whether, in addition to inviting written comments from the BinJ, it is appropriate to directly seek written comments from these other parties. The standard enquiries template letter can be tailored accordingly.
If inviting comments from or making enquiries to third party organisations Investigators must as much as possible maintain confidentiality.
Our standard letter template explains what we do, our powers, why we are writing, and asks for their assistance. It also sets out that our investigations are conducted in private, and that we do not publish the names of those involved in our investigations. Inviting a telephone discussion if they have any queries may be helpful, but a written response will normally be appropriate.
The standard letter template also explains that we will share with the complainant relevant comments from third parties, and any accompanying evidence which we rely on in reaching a decision. If Investigators are unsure whether information received from a third party organisation should be disclosed, they should discuss those concerns with that organisation or their manager before forwarding it.
We should give a deadline, and chase if this is not met. If there is still no response, Investigators should refer the matter to their Assistant Ombudsman.