May 1, 2009

The History of the Ombudsman

The First Ombudsman
In 1697, when he was only 15 years old, Charles XII became King of Sweden. For the next 17 years, however, Charles was out of the country fighting wars, mostly against Russia. During this time, because he was away from the country, Charles signed a law creating an office called the King's Highest Ombudsman. The job of the King's Highest Ombudsman was to make sure that while the king was away the government workers, judges, and the military were acting properly and following the rules the King had left for them. When the wars were over and the King returned to Sweden, the office of the ombudsman disappeared for several decades, but it was not forgotten.
About a hundred years later, in 1809, Sweden had a different king but it was still fighting wars with Russia. The war was not going very well for Sweden. In fact, the king had been taken prisoner by the Russian army. Without a King to make final decisions and settle disputes, the Swedish Parliament brought back the idea of the ombudsman. The ombudsman who was appointed in 1809 was responsible to Parliament and his job was to protect the rights of citizens against unfair or oppressive decisions of the bureaucracy. His name was Lars Augustin Mannerheim.
The appointment of this parliamentary ombudsman in Sweden in 1809 is generally regarded as the birthdate of the modern ombudsman.
Most of the public or parliamentary ombudsmen around the world are modeled on what happened in Sweden in 1809. A common definition that is accepted today says that a public or parliamentary ombudsman is "a public official appointed by the legislature to receive and investigate citizen complaints against administrative acts of government".
The Ombudsman in Saskatchewan
Canadian provinces began to create ombudsman offices in the late 1960s. Saskatchewan passed a law creating the office of the ombudsman and then appointed Saskatchewan's first Ombudsman in 1973.
The Ombudsman in Saskatchewan is called an Independent Officer of the Legislative Assembly. This means that the Ombudsman is not part of the government. The Ombudsman is separate and apart from the government. The Ombudsman is appointed for a five year term and may be appointed for no more than two terms.
There have been five ombudsmen in Saskatchewan since the first one was appointed in 1973. The current Ombudsman is Kevin Fenwick. Before he was appointed as the Ombudsman in 2004, Mr. Fenwick was a layer and mediator.
The ombudsman appears officially in 1809, in Sweden, with the status of minister and the function of controlling the public power and listening to the appeals of the citizens against government organs. Later, the ombudsmen were adopted in other countries, mainly the Scandinavians ombudsmen were created against ethnical discriminations, they have the Parliament Ombudsmen, that of the consumers, etc.
Before the Swedish experience (in the XIX century), there had been "listeners". We know that in ancient Rome the Tribune of the Pleb listened to the complaints of the citizens. In Colonial Brazil, the bishops had the function of "Listeners of the Crown", which gave birth to the popular expression (in Brazil): "Complain to the bishop".
The first press ombudsman appears in the U.S.A. in july 1967, with the function of listening to the complaints of the readers of the Louisville Courier Journal and of the Louisville Times, both in Louisville, Kentucky. In spite of that, the first ombudsman with a public column has been Richard Harwood, in the Washington Post, in 1970.
The American pioneerism in the creation of the press ombudsman in questioned by the Japanese. The Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbum guarantees that, in 1938, it had already a professional with a function similar to that of the ombudsman.
In Brazil, the first newspaper to adopt ombudsmen has been the "Folha de S. Paulo", that in 1989, chose Caio T£lio Costa to occupy the function. Other newspapers could have tried to create it first. According to Caio T£lio, the first publication that tried to implement the function was the Jornal do Brasil, in 1982, and didn't succeed because various journalists invited to occupy the function refused it.
According to him, the main competition of the Folha, O Estado de S. Paulo tried to create the function. Directors and journalists of the Estado discussed the subject with specialists of the Navarra University and everything was being prepared for the implementation of the project, until finally in the middle of 1990, this project was abandoned since the Folha de S. Paulo had created the office first.
Folha's experience was pioneer not only in relation to the press, but also in relation to any kind of institution. After the attitude of the Folha, many enterprises, public organs and even county administrations adopted ombudsmen.
The word "ombudsman"
The word "ombudsman" is of Swedish origin. It is the fusion of the word ombud (representative) and man (man). Caio T£lio translated the word as "the one that represents", but its real meaning is "person with a delegation". When the function was created in 1809, it received the denomination of "Justitieombudsman" (justice ombudsman).
By the word's origin, it would be wrong to form its plural as "ombudsmen", since it isn't an English word. The correct form would be "ombudsm„n". Its feminine form would be "ombudskvinna", that would be "ombudskvinnor" in the plural form. "Ombudsmen" is used as it is the case in this article. The Folha de S. Paulo makes use of the word "ombudsman" when the function is occupied by a woman.
In Pakistan, the institution of Ombudsman was set up at the federal level in 1983 under President's Order No. 1 of 1983. This Institution could not attend to complaints pertaining to Provincial Agencies for want of jurisdiction. The public and Press jointly demanded establishment of Ombudsman Institution at provincial level. Federal Government also urged the provincial governments from time to time to set up this Institution.
In Sindh, it was set up through the Establishment of the office of Ombudsman for the Province of Sindh Act, 1991.
In Punjab, the office of the Ombudsman came into existence on the 30th September, 1996 through Punjab Ordinance No. XI of 1996.
Mr. Justice Mohammad Munir Khan, a retired Judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, was appointed on the 20th October, 1996 as the first Ombudsman for the Province of Punjab. He had hardly settled down in the office when he fell victim to an act of terrorism, resulting in his tragic death.
The 2nd Ombudsman Mr. Justice (R) Manzoor Hussain Sial took over the charge of the office of the Ombudsman Punjab on the 26th January 1997. Mr. Justice (R) Manzoor Hussain Sial completed his tenure, on 25th January, 2000. During his tenure he was confronted with the daunting challenges of establishment and organization of the Ombudsman Secretariat and providing speedy relief to the citizens against the injustices suffered by them at the hands of Administrative Agencies.
The Punjab Office of the Ombudsman Act, 1997 was promulgated on 30th June, 1997 during his tenure.
The 3rd Ombudsman Mr. Justice (R) Sajjad Ahmed Sipra assumed the charge of Office on 12.02.2000. Mr. Justice (R) Sajjad Ahmed Sipra relinquished his charge as Ombudsman Punjab on 11th February, 2004 after completing tenure.
The 4th Ombudsman Mr. Abdur Rashid Khan assumed the charge of Ombudsman Punjab on 17.05.2004. Mr. Abdur Rashid Khan relinquished his charge as Ombudsman Punjab on 15th May, 2008 after completing tenure.
The 5th Ombudsman Mr. Khalid Mahmood assumed the charge of Ombudsman Punjab on 08.12.2008.
The Ombudsman
In 1962 Parliament took the unusual step for a Commonwealth country of establishing a Parliamentary Commissioner for Investigations – or Ombudsman, after Scandinavian precedents. The Ombudsman is responsible to Parliament itself and his function is to investigate and – if he thinks fit – report on complaints made against Government administration.
History of the Office

The word Ombudsman is Swedish and loosely translated means “grievance person”.
The word “Ombudsman” was first used in its modern sense in 1809 when the Swedish Parliament established the office of Justitieombudsman, who was to look after citizens’ interests in their dealings with government.
Today, many countries have adopted the Ombudsman concept. The International Ombudsman Institute is an affiliation of 100 national ombudsman-type institutions.
The History and Development of the Public Sector Ombudsman Office

By 2004, the ombudsman office, at the national level of government, exists in approximately 120 countries around the world (see Appendix I for countries and territories with ombudsmen at the national and/or sub-national level of government). Some countries have ombudsman offices at the national and subnational levels, such as Australia, Argentina, Mexico and Spain, while other nations have ombudsman offices only at the subnational government level, as in Canada, India and Italy. Public sector ombudsman offices are located in countries in Europe, North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Australasia and Pacific region and Asia.
The word "ombudsman" is of Swedish origin, and means "representative". Many other names are used to represent the ombudsman office in the different countries that have adopted the office. For example, Defensor del Pueblo is the title of the ombudsman office in a number of Spanish-speaking countries (such as in Spain, Argentina, Peru and Colombia). Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (Sri Lanka, United Kingdom), Médiateur de la République (e.g. France, Gabon, Mauritania, Senegal), Public Protector (South Africa), Protecteur du Citoyen (Québec), Volksanwaltschaft (Austria), Public Complaints Commission (Nigeria), Provedor de Justiça (Portugal), Difensore Civico (Italy), Investigator-General (Zambia), Citizen's Aide (Iowa), Wafaqi Mohtasib (Pakistan), and Lok Ayukta (India) are the titles of some other ombudsman offices around the world.
Also, in a number of countries, the protection of human rights is one of the major purposes of the ombudsman office, and this is often reflected in the name of the office. For example, there is Guatemala's Procurador de los Derechos Humanos (Counsel of Human Rights), the Procurador Para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (Counsel for the Defence of Human Rights) of El Salvador, Mexico's Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos (National Commission of Human Rights) and the state-level offices with a similar name, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice of Ghana, the Civil Rights Protector of Poland, the Human Rights Ombudsman of Slovenia and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights in Hungary. In other countries, although it is not apparent from the title of the office, the framework laws of the office give it an additional human rights function, such as Defensores del Pueblo (e.g. in Spain, Argentina and Peru) and the Ombudsman of Finland.
The roots of the modern ombudsman can be traced back to the Justitieombudsman (ombudsman for justice) of Sweden which was established in 1809. The office did not spread to other countries until the twentieth century, when it was adopted in other Scandinavian countries, in Finland (1919), Denmark (1955) and Norway (1962). The popularity of the ombudsman office increased starting in the early 1960s, as various Commonwealth and other, mainly European, countries established the office: for example, New Zealand (1962), United Kingdom (1967), most Canadian provinces (starting in 1967), Tanzania (1968), Israel (1971), Puerto Rico (1977), Australia (1977 at the federal level, 1972-1979 at the state level), France (1973), Portugal (1975), Austria (1977), Spain (1981) and the Netherlands (1981).
By mid-1983, there were only about twenty-one countries with ombudsman offices at the national level and about six other countries with ombudsman offices at the provincial/state or regional levels. However, the transition of many countries to democracy and democratic structures of governance over the past two decades has led to the establishment of many more ombudsman offices during this most recent period. This transition to democracy accompanied by the reform of government; including the establishment of the classical ombudsman, human rights ombudsman or other hybrid ombudsman?has been evident particularly in Latin America, Central and East Europe, as well as in parts of Africa and the Asia-Pacific. Countries that have established national offices during this period include Argentina, Costa Rica, Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, Namibia, South Africa, Poland, some francophone African countries, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Thailand and the Philippines.
By 2004, the number of ombudsman offices had more than quintupled to encompass offices both in states with well-established democratic systems and in countries that are younger democracies. Furthermore, the European Union has created a European Ombudsman under the Maastricht Treaty. The first European Ombudsman was appointed in 1995.
The Ombudsman: Variation on the Ombudsman Concept
In many countries around the world there is an ombudsman who deals with complaints from the public regarding decisions, actions or omissions of public administration. The holder of this office is elected by parliament or appointed by the head of state or government by or after consultation with parliament. The role of the ombudsman is to protect the people against violation of rights, abuse of powers, error, negligence, unfair decisions and maladministration in order to improve public administration and make the government's actions more open and the government and its servants more accountable to members of the public. The office of ombudsman may be enshrined in the country's constitution and supported by legislation, or created by an act of the legislature.
The ombudsman usually has powers to make an objective investigation into complaints from the public about the administration of government. Often the ombudsman also has the power to initiate an investigation even if a complaint has not been registered. To protect people's rights, the ombudsman has various powers, namely to:
investigate whether the administration of government is being performed contrary to law or unfairly;
if an objective investigation uncovers improper adminis-tration, make recommendations to eliminate the improper administrative conduct; and
report on his activities in specific cases to the government and the complainant and, if the recommendations made in a specific case have not been accepted by the government, to the legislature. Most ombudsmen also make an annual report on their work to the legislature and the public in general.
The ombudsman usually does not have the power to make decisions that are binding on the government. Rather, the ombudsman makes recommendations for change, as supported by a thorough investigation of the complaint. A crucial foundation stone of the ombudsman office is the independence of the office from the executive/administrative branch of government. In order that the ombudsman's investigations and recommendations will be credible to both public and government, the ombudsman maintains and protects the impartiality and integrity of his office.
Generally, the public sector ombudsman has a general jurisdiction over a broad range of governmental organizations. For some, the range may extend to include the judiciary, police and military, while in other countries, one or more of these are specifically excluded. A number of countries have also created ombudsmen who deal only with one specific aspect of government such as access to information, corrections, police services, the armed forces, health services or ethical conduct of officials. In other situations, the ombudsmen have specific mandates to protect the environment, deal with cultural or linguistic rights, or to investigate corruption in government. In recent years, many countries around the world have been making the transition to democratic forms of government. As part of the democratization of government, they have often created ombudsman offices to improve government administration. Some of these new offices have been given the explicit duty to investigate complaints from members of the public that their human rights have been infringed by the government. In conjunction, these offices are sometimes given additional powers, such as the ability to bring court actions to protect human rights guarantees in the constitution or the mission to promote human rights education.
A number of countries have established human rights commissions which use the ombudsman concept as the means of improving the protection of human rights. In these countries, human rights commissions act as ombudsmen in investigating complaints from the public as well as carrying on active educational programs to create a "human rights culture".
The ombudsman model has also been adapted for use by the private sector as a form of internal dispute resolution or to handle complaints made against the private entity by its clientele. Thus, there may be "ombudsman" schemes for universities, private health care facilities, corporations and banks. However, the International Ombudsman Institute (I.O.I.) Institutional Membership and mandate focuses on the public sector ombudsman office: the ombudsman who deals with public administration.

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