In his reaction to the Public Service’s publication ‘Governance Action on the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s Annual Report 2020’, by means of a letter to the Speaker tabled in Parliament on Monday, the Office of the Ombudsman overlooked all the positive aspects, including that 98% of all closed cases showed the Public Service acted correctly. 

Instead, the Ombudsman’s office took a full thirty-one days to try to justify how the scrutiny of the Public Administration equates to an exercise in good governance and accountability while a call for more transparency and accountability on the Ombudsman’s office part amounts to a ‘direct frontal attack’ against this institution.

For clarification’s sake, the Public Administration has put forward proposals so that all constitutional overseeing institutions (and not only the Ombudsman) should have clear, transparent, well-defined, and publicly known procedures about their own standard operating policies along with the recruitment of staff (which includes consultants/persons of trust) into their fold.

The Office of the Ombudsman not only skirted but was oblivious to these proposals and whether these ought to be included in the legal amendments his Office would like to see implemented in the Ombudsman Act.

Akin to the public administration, shouldn’t the constitutional overseers also have deadlines on how long they should take to reply to citizens’ cases? Currently, the Public Administration has been waiting for two to five years on more than twenty cases for the Office of the Ombudsman to provide a definitive reply to act upon.

Shouldn’t the Office of the Ombudsman have a clear policy to those seeking its services on what complaints can be investigated by the Ombudsman? Indeed, in 2020, a quarter of the cases submitted their case to the Ombudsman without first trying to find a remedial solution from the Public Administration. 

Should the Office of the Ombudsman be a customer care service provider or the overseer of the Public Administration? 

The Public Administration is also proposing that the Ombudsman’s recommendations are to be based on facts. The Public Administration has very clear instructions that recommendations submitted by constitutional bodies, like the Office of the Ombudsman, should be accepted and implemented as long as the recommendations do not go against the law or entrenched policies.

At a time when the Ombudsman’s recommendations were left unheeded year in, year out, there were no utterances against the Public Administration. Nowadays, when the implementation rate of the Ombudsman’s recommendations is entirely documented, made public, and stands at 98%, the Public Administration is being recriminated against as being offensive.

All ‘Governance Action’ publications are based on facts and are well-documented, and the Public Administration will be more than ready to present Mr Speaker with the documented facts.