Increasing Government accountability through Ombudsman offices worldwide
As bureaucracies have grown in size and complexity, there has been an increased need to ensure that citizens can, where necessary, seek effective administrative justice remedies against governmental authorities. Ombudsman schemes have had a crucial role in this sphere, having the potential to offer a cheaper, quicker and, overall, more accessible way to challenge government action as compared to bringing an action before the courts. The ombudsman institution has thus been welcomed as one that restores the balance between the citizen and the state. Ombudsman offices have a key role to play in ensuring accountability, provided they operate with independence and transparency, as discussed in Chapter 2. The European Ombudsman provides an example of a structure that furthers the goals of government accountability on a supranational level. The ombudsman reviews the conduct of European Union agencies, bodies and institutions, both on her own initiative and following individual complaints. This includes monitoring the transparency of these bodies. For instance, in February 2018, following a detailed inquiry, the ombudsman concluded that the practices of the Council of the EU that limit the scrutiny of draft EU legislation constitute maladministration, which has the effect of weakening citizens' rights of holding their elected representatives responsible.
The names of general-purpose ombudsman offices vary across jurisdictions:
• Argentina: Defensor del Pueblo de la Nación • Armenia: Human Rights Defender
• Burkina Faso: Médiateur du Faso • Cyprus: Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights
• France: Le Défenseur des droits • Ghana: Commissioner on Human Rights and Administrative Justice
• Gibraltar: Public Services Ombudsman • Republic of Korea: Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission
• Serbia: Protector of Citizens of the Republic of Serbia
Role of ombudsman offices in the UN framework
The UN has specifically highlighted the role of the ombudsman in the advocacy of civil rights, through a series of resolutions adopted by the General Assembly. The latest resolution adopted by it on 19 December 2017 recognized and welcomed the ‘rapidly growing interest throughout the world in the creation and strengthening of the Ombudsman, mediator and other national human rights institutions’. In line with the general principles outlined above, the resolution highlights the significance of the autonomy and sovereignty of ombudsman offices and their role in promoting good governance in public administration across the globe.
Besides according to them with strong constitutional and legislative frameworks, Member States are also encouraged to provide sufficient financial means for the effective functioning of ombudsman structures.