Complaints Page

What to do if you want to complain about the work of the Northern Ireland Audit Office

The NIAO aims to carry out its work to the highest professional standards and to deliver an efficient and effective public audit service which represents best value for money. We are committed to continual improvement. This includes handling complaints carefully in an open and courteous way by investigating the matters raised thoroughly and replying as quickly as possible.

The NIAO has an internal two-stage complaints process. We will do all we can to resolve your complaint at the first stage, but if you are not satisfied with our response or you are unhappy with the way we have handled your complaint, you may progress to stage two by contacting NIAO’s Director of Corporate Services who will arrange for someone in senior management, not previously involved in the case, to carry out a full independent review. Should you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your complaint, you can refer it on the NI Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO). How to complain and details of our procedure are set out below along with how you can expect us to handle your complaint.


What do we consider to be a complaint?

The NIAO defines a complaint as: “an expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the actions or lack of actions by the NIAO, or its staff, affecting one or more members of the public or an employee of a body audited by the NIAO””.  

Complaints addressed by NIAO are limited to maladministration; to establish maladministration it is not sufficient that there is a mere mistake or error but rather that something more than this, such as, bias, neglect, inattention, delay, incompetence, inaptitude, perversity, turpitude or arbitrariness (the Crossman catalogue) have taken place in an administrative function.

Administrative functions that may be the subject of a complaint include:

  • correspondence, where the correspondent is unhappy with our response;
  • the work of NIAO staff, including an alleged failure to follow the Code of Conduct;
  • not adhering to Office policies;
  • how services are procured;
  • resources provided by the NIAO, for example publications;
  • the reasonableness of the processes followed by the NIAO staff;
  • the behaviour of NIAO staff; and
  • discrimination or delay in handling job applications for NIAO posts (from external candidates).


These administrative functions extend to the work of any audit firms appointed to carry out the work of the NIAO.



Who can complain?

Complaints may arise from those we audit, those we consult during the course of an audit, correspondents, and the general public.


Is there a time limit for complaining?

We will do all we can to look into your complaint. However, we will not usually accept complaints that are made more than six months after the event being complained about or being brought to the complainants attention.



Are there any types of complaint that this procedure cannot consider under this process?

There are some issues that we would not consider to be a complaint for the purpose of this policy.  Exemptions include:


  • complaints relating to the C&AG’s opinion or judgement in conducting her statutory functions as an independent officer of the NI Assembly;
  • complaints relating to the Local Government Auditor’s opinion or judgement in conducting her statutory functions;
  • employment matters, including complaints from staff or former staff which would be considered under the NIAO’s employment procedures;

     complaints that the NIAO has failed to meet its obligations to disclose information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and to deal with requests in accordance with statutory procedure, which are subject to a distinct formal process; and

     complaints that the NIAO has failed to meet its obligations to disclose information under the Data Protection Act 2018 and to deal with requests in accordance with statutory procedure, which are subject to a distinct formal process;

  • complaints relating to organisations audited by the NIAO. If the complainant wishes to comment on an organisation audited by the NIAO, they should raise it with that organisation, using its own complaints procedure.


There are also circumstances where we will not pursue a complaint, where the NIAO considers a complaint to be:


     Vexatious: a complaint instituted without sufficient grounds and serving only to cause annoyance to the receiver of the complaint; an abusive or unduly persistent oppressive complaint; or otherwise, an abuse of the procedures for dealing with complaints or conduct matters; and / or

     Repetitious: a complaint that is substantially the same as a previous complaint (whether made by or on behalf of the same or a different complainant); contains no fresh allegations which significantly affect the account of the previous complaint; or where no fresh evidence, being evidence, which was not reasonably available at the time the previous complaint was made, is tendered in support of it.


What happens to my complaint?

Stage 1

Any communication that is identified as a complaint should, in the first instance, be passed to NIAO’s Director of Corporate Services. Where we have determined that the correspondence meets the definition of a complaint as set in this policy, we will aim to send the complainant a response within five working days.

The NIAO staff member who has responsibility for the work to which the complaint relates should meet and/or speak with the complainant, as they are best placed to sort out most problems. Most complaints should be resolved through this informal channel.

If the matters raised require a more detailed investigation, we will let the complainant know and advise as to when they can expect a response.


Stage 2

We will make every effort to satisfactorily resolve the complaint in Stage 1. However, if the complainant is not satisfied by our response or by the way that their complaint was handled, they should contact the Director of Corporate Services who will arrange for someone in senior management, and not previously involved in the case, to carry out a full independent review.

We aim to respond to the majority of Stage 2 complaints within 20 working days.


What can I do if I am still dissatisfied with the outcome of Stage Two?

The Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO) is the final stage for complaints about the majority of public services in Northern Ireland.  This includes complaints about NIAO.  NIPSO is an independent organisation that investigates complaints.  The service provided by NIPSO is free, it is not an advocacy or support service (but there are other organisations that can help with advocacy or support).

If you remain dissatisfied when you have considered this response, you can ask NIPSO to look at your complaint. NIPSO generally expect complaints to be brought to it within six months since you received correspondence from NIAO informing you that the complaints handling procedure is complete and of your right to refer your complaint to NIPSO.

NIPSO will generally ask complainants to provide details of their complaint and a copy of the final response from the organization.  You can do this online at or call Freephone 0800 343424.



NIPSO’s contact details are:

Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman,
Progressive House
33 Wellington Place
Belfast BT1 6HN


Tel: Freephone 0800 343424




If you would like to visit in person the office is open from 10 – 12 Monday to Friday.  An appointment is recommended but not essential.



How to contact us to make a complaint

You can contact us by e mail by following the link below

You may also write to us at this address

Director of Corporate Services,

Northern Ireland Audit Office,

106 University Street,


BT7 1EU.


Please note that from 1 April 2016 the Office is legally required to give a complainant written notice advising them:

  • when the organisation’s internal complaints process has been exhausted
  • they may refer the matter to the Ombudsman if he/she remains dissatisfied
  • of the time limit for making such a referral
  • how to contact the Ombudsman

The Office must do this within two weeks of the day on which the complaints procedure has been exhausted.