null Ombudsman Takes Stand on Handling Public Interest Disclosure

In a case related to livestock rearing, the town clerk of the Common Local Government Office of Kiskunhalas caused a fundamental-rights-related impropriety relating to legal certainty and fair authority proceedings while handling a public interest disclosure that had been submitted to her – concluded the Ombudsman. Dr. Ákos Kozma asked the town clerk to take action in order to prevent the future occurrence of improprieties such as the ones exposed.

A complainant turned to the Ombudsman in person, and requested the legal review of his case in the Complaints’ Office of the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights. He objected to the fact that the public interest disclosure regarding livestock rearing and the construction of the related buildings, which he had first made in person at the Common Local Government Office of Kiskunhalas, and which, when called upon, he had also submitted in writing on 17 November 2017, was not properly investigated. He also alleged that in recent years, horses had been kept in a suburban district of the residential area of Kiskunhalas, and buildings suitable for the ownership of equidae had been – in his view, unlawfully – erected.

In his report on Case No. AJB-608/2021, Dr. Ákos Kozma exposed that the town clerk had significantly exceeded the deadline specified in Section 2 of Act CLXV of 2013 on Complaints and Public Interest Disclosures (“Pkbt.”). What is more, she had failed to send the relevant information about deadlines to the complainant, and she had not referred the complaint – as prescribed by Section 1(5) of the Pkbt. – to other authorities who had competence regarding the public interest disclosure at hand.

The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights established that by protracting the inquiry into the public interest disclosure, failing to inform the complainant about the deadlines, and omitting to do the necessary referral, the town clerk caused an impropriety related to the complainant’s fundamental rights to legal certainty and fair authority proceedings.

In consideration of the administrative court action that had already been completed on the matter, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights did not take a stance regarding the lawfulness of the construction of livestock verandas that the complainant had objected to. At the same time, he took into consideration that according to Section 36(5) of Gov. Decree No. 253/1997 (20 December) on the National Settlement and Building Requirements (“OTÉK”), the conditions for the placement of livestock buildings may be determined by the Local Building Code with due observance of public and animal health requirements, as well as environmental criteria. The Ombudsman found that the Local Building Code of Kiskunhalas that was in force at the time of the inquiry did not contain any provisions regarding the conditions of the placement of livestock buildings. He pointed out that the deficiency of the regulation makes it significantly harder for the local government to settle the conflicts arising from livestock rearing among the inhabitants, so he concluded that regulations should be formulated regarding animal husbandry, giving due consideration to the local context and the zones defined by the OTÉK.

In consideration of the above, Dr. Ákos Kozma asked the town clerk of the Common Local Government Office of Kiskunhalas to take action in order to prevent the future occurrence of improprieties such as the ones exposed, and urged her to pay special attention to fully complying with the relevant regulations when handling public interest disclosures. Furthermore, he suggested that she consider initiating the amendment of Decree No. 8/2001 (1 March) on the Local Building Code of the Town of Kiskunhalas and the approval of its Settlement Plan, as well as the drafting of a local government decree on the rules of keeping pet animals.

For the report, please click on the following link: AJB-608/2021.