The Legal Ombudsman's office has promised to publish a full report into the expenses dispute that resulted in the resignation of its chief executive last month.
But the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC) has refused requests to say at this stage how much – if any – of the disputed amount has been repaid.
Adam Sampson (pictured) resigned as chief executive and chief ombudsman over the annual accounts presented to the Ministry of Justice in June.
Sampson has confirmed that he had claimed for work trips to London from his office in Birmingham – coming to around £20,000 over five years in total – and stayed at his home in the capital. He denies any wrongdoing and said the arrangement was in place for four years without any concerns being flagged up.
The Gazette made a freedom of information request last month to the OLC to ask whether the money has been paid back and who authorised the payments.
The response confirmed the process for presenting the OLC’s annual report before parliament is ‘still ongoing’ – including assessment of expenses.
The response also confirmed that an internal report on the expenses process has been completed and will be published in the future. This will include details about when the issue of the validity of claims was first raised and who agreed to the payments – as well as whether any disciplinary action will be taken against those individuals.
But the response cited section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act, which states that information is exempt if a public authority has a view to publishing it in future.
An ombudsman spokesperson said: ‘I have considered whether the public interest in maintaining the exemption is greater than the public interest in providing the information.
‘I am satisfied that in this case it is right and proper that the information you request is withheld from disclosure at this stage because it is our intention to publish it in the future.’
Meanwhile, a working group set up by the Legal Ombudsman has produced a report that suggests there are some cases of third-party complaints where access to redress would be ‘helpful’, if the circumstances in which the OLC could get involved could be clearly and tightly defined.
The report was referenced during November’s OLC board meeting, with a formal update on third-party complaints scheduled for July 2015.
Elisabeth Davies, chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, said redress for third parties would be welcome.
‘We’ve always accepted that only some such complaints should be permitted, but maintained the current blanket prohibition is unfair – the OLC’s agreement with this principle is an important breakthrough.’
She stated that 1,680 third-party complaints were turned away by the ombudsman in 2013-14.