Ombudsman | Definition, Functions & Importance

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Ombudsman | Definition, Functions, Importance & Limitations

Definition of Ombudsman
Ombudsman – Definition

What is Ombudsman

Ombudsman is a government institution established to examine complaints of inefficient administration, corruption and unjustified treatment by over-zealous public authorities or officials against citizens. Ombudsman is also known as the Public Complaints Commission. It was first introduced in Sweden in 1809. Norway, New Zealand, Finland, Denmark, Great Britain, etc, have this institution in place. It was also established in Nigeria in October, 1975.

Functions and Importance of Ombudsman

  • Problems and complaints: To examine the problems and complaints of those citizens victimised or cheated in one way or the other.
  • Cases of bad administration: To investigate thoroughly cases of bad administration levelled against any public authority.
  • Rights and liberties: This body is committed to ensuring the protection of the rights and liberties of the members of the public.
  • Prosecution: To see to the prosecution of those officers that are not acting in conformity with the laws of the land and the rules and regulations governing their official responsibility.
  • Corrupt practises: It is to investigate allegations or corrupt practlses levelled against ofiicers.
  • Restraining factor: Ombudsman is a valuable weapon restraining bureaucratic excesses.
  • They conduct investigation: They investigate the extent to which some dubious officers present fake documents, cases of incompetence, etc, in public institutions.
  • Infringement: When the rights of citizens are infringed upon, instead of going to court, ombudsman can address the issue.
  • Efficient discharge of duties: It is incumbent on every public officer to discharge his duties faithfully and inline with the laid down rules and regulations.
  • Monitoring: Deplorable conditions, neglect, etc, experienced in some public institutions e.g. prison, hospitals and orphanage are equally investigated and recommedations are made by the commission.

Limitation to the powers of Ombudsman

  • No power-to enforce issues: This body can only investigate and subsequently make recommendation to the appropriate authority. It has no executive power to enforce decisions.
  • It cannot investigate the activities of top officials in government: It can only be involved in matters affecting officers of lower grades but not ministers, Governors of states and or Director Generals.
  • No power to question: It has no power to challenge or change decisions of the courts when administered.
  • Secrecy: The secrecy of the civil service is lacking here, and it affects its effectiveness and ability in matters it a vows to investigate and uphold.
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