Report 2018: More than 48,000 requests and 9300 new processes. Complaints about Social Security lead, with a rise of 39%
In 2018, the Ombudsman’s Office received a total of 48,129 requests through the various channels available to citizens, including 36,111 entries of complaints and other communications. During the year, 9338 new procedures were instituted, five of them from the Ombudsman’s initiative, which translates into an increase in the handling of complaints of 20% over the previous year.
Activity indicators are the highest in the history of this independent state body created in 1975 to defend people who feel prejudiced by unfair or illegal acts of the administration or other public authorities or who see their fundamental rights violated.
These data appear in the Report (in Portuguese only) the Assembly of the Republic 2018, today delivered, along with the report on the activity developed by the Ombudsman as a National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture.
As in previous years, Social Protection matters remained in 2018 as the most recurrent in complaints filed by citizens and in the 9 333 new complaints procedures learned, and returned to a very substantial growth of 39% after the rise already significant of 37% in 2017. Complaints about delays in processing and payment of pensions almost quadrupled compared to the previous year.
The second most treated issue refers to Public Employment Relations, followed by Taxation. Complaints about Social Security, Public Employment and Taxation correspond exactly to half of the 9,333 received and instructed new procedures.
Looking more closely, the ten most frequently reported issues in the complaints filed in 2018 were: old age pensions, foreigners ‘rights, survivors’ pensions, contributions and social security debts, tax foreclosures, judicial delays, health, articulation with foreign social security schemes, penitentiary affairs and road affairs.
In terms of annual variation, the biggest rises of complaints were recorded in the right of foreigners, which doubled, and the penitentiary matters, which rose by around 70%. On the opposite side, economic and financial issues arise, with 52% fewer complaints than in 2017.
Almost half of the entities targeted in the complaints filed in 2018 referred to the work of the Indirect and Autonomous Administration, which registered an additional 1141 complaints compared to 2017, with a strong emphasis on the Social Security Institute, followed by the Central Administration (now led by the Ministry of the Internal Administration, which goes beyond the Ministry of Finance).
National Prevention Mechanism
As part of the Ombudsman’s activity as a National Prevention Mechanism (NPM) against torture and degrading treatment, which lasted five years in 2018, 42 visits to places of detention were carried out.
Priority was given to the reassessment of prisons in the country as a whole and to the monitoring of detention conditions at Temporary Installation Centers and similar facilities at airports, particularly in Lisbon, which was personally visited by the Ombudsman in November. The impact of strikes on prison life, failures in medical supervision and the conditions in which children are detained at airports were the topics that raised the most concern and calls for attention of the MNP in 2018.
It is also worth noting the visits to all the educational centers of the country, following which a Recommendation of the MNP was issued, already in 2019.
National Human Rights Institution
In the year in which the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was celebrated and the Ombudsman’s Office, since 1999, the National Human Rights Institution, two major conferences were organized: "Integrity and Dignity – Preventing Inhumane Treatment, "attended by a number of national and international experts working to combat and prevent torture and ill-treatment in places where there are persons deprived of their liberty; and "Free and Equals", based on reflections of Maria da Glória Garcia and António Barreto.
In this context and on the initiative of the Ombudsman, the third meeting of the CPLP Human Rights Network was held in Lisbon, and it was decided to consolidate in each national institution focal points of contact to ensure the exchange of information, including those necessary for resolution of specific cases of complaints of citizens involving two or more jurisdictions of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries.
The Ombudsman also drafted an annotated version of the UDHR, illustrating each of the 30 rights enshrined in it with cases and problems that have been called for over time. This publication, in electronic version, was released in early 2019.
Also in the field of Human Rights, 2018 marked the beginning of the project, promoted by the European Union, to strengthen the Ombudsman of Turkey, being the first time that a European program of this nature is led by the Ombudsman of Portugal.
Indemnities – Great fires of 2017
The extraordinary competence attributed to the Ombudsman by the Council of Ministers, in the context of the compensation procedure for the relatives of the victims and the serious injuries of the fires of June and October 2017, intensively mobilized the Ombudsman services throughout 2018, the instruction of about half a thousand procedures. The procedure followed for the determination of compensation proposals is explained in detail in this report by the Ombudsman.