Honiara : 27 July 2017
Letter to the Editors, Solomon Star and Island Sun newspapers.
The Solomon Islands Parliament has passed the Ombudsman Bill 2016 in what is regarded as a first step by the Solomon Islands Government in the fight against corruption.
The Anti-Corruption Bill and the Whistleblowers Bill remain to be passed
Some of the main objectives of the Ombudsman Bill are:
To safeguard the rights of individuals against maladministration, abuse of power or violations of fundamental human rights by the public authorities subject to his jurisdiction;
To investigate and form opinions on complaints of defective public administration;
To promote fairness, justice and equity in administrative action;
To promote improved relationships between instruments of government at all levels, and the people;
To promote the educative role of the Office of the Ombudsman;
To promote awareness on the role and function of the Ombudsman – a right to complaint is not a right if a person is unaware of its existence;
To identify and advise on how laws and regulations could be improved to render them more just and equitable; and
To undertake own initiative investigations where it is in the public interest to do so.
More than eight Members of Parliament contributed to the debate on the Bill at the Committee of Supply stage.
The Hon Leader of the Opposition, Jeremiah Manele, during the second reading of the new bill called for the ombudsman to be given more powers to investigate the actions of public leaders and authorities and the office be given more autonomy including independent control of its budgetary allocation.
Mr Manele was reported to have said too often promising government programs and initiatives were hamstrung because of inadequate funds or delays in funding approval.
The office of Ombudsman is an ancient institution and readers might like to know something of its historical background and the general duties of the office in other countries.
Quoting from the Ombudsman Association :
“What ombudsmen do
“Ombudsmen offer their services free of charge, and are thus accessible to individuals who could not afford to pursue their complaints through the courts.
“They are committed to achieving redress for the individual, but also, where they identify systemic failings, to seek changes in the work of the bodies in their jurisdiction, both individually and collectively.
“They can generally undertake a single investigation into multiple complaints about the same topic, thus avoiding duplication and excessive cost.
“They are neutral arbiters and not advocates nor “consumer champions”.
“They normally ask the body concerned and the complainant to try to resolve complaints before commencing an investigation.
“They usually seek to resolve disputes without resort to formal investigations where this is possible and desirable.
“Where they identify injustice, they seek to put this right.”