If they can make citizens’ lives easier, the on-line services of federal administrations can also complicate them, sometimes because of failures and breakdowns, the Federal Ombudsman stated in a 2018 report, published on Tuesday. Last year, he received 6,206 new cases, 4,564 of which were complaints.
The ombudsman notably pointed out the SPF Justice site for the automatic payment of traffic offence fines that has been crashing frequently for over a year. Persons who wrongly paid a fine twice or paid too much still have to wait too long before being reimbursed. “The helpdesk is ineffective; it is incapable of resolving citizens’ minor and purely administrative problems,” the report regretted.
The transition to digital was not inclusive enough anymore. This was because 10% of Belgians aged between 16 and 74 have never used the internet, the ombudsman said. Furthermore, only six out of ten Belgians confirmed they had enough skills to use it.
“Digitization can improve the efficiency of public services, but not to the detriment of citizens’ access to their rights. It is essential to support vulnerable or poor persons, who encounter great difficulty in the digital world,” Catherine de Bruecker, the federal ombudsman, appraised.
Last year, the ombudsman received 6,206 fresh cases, 4,564 of which were complaints mainly concerning refugee status and emigration (26%), social security (24%) and taxation (18%). “Citizens are above all complaining about administrative delays due to the fact that the responsible parties are not applying regulations correctly and about the way in which their claims are being dealt with,” the ombudsman’s report reiterated.