Ombudsman’s battle

Bame Piet
OMBUDSMAN: Tiroyakgosi

Frustrations and challenges in pursuit of transparency

Ombudsman Steven Tiroyakgosi, just two years into his tenure, finds himself at odds with a system resistant to transparency, hindering his efforts to conduct effective investigations.

In a candid address to journalists this week, Tiroyakgosi lamented the challenges faced by his office, shedding light on the uphill battle against bureaucratic red tape and non-compliance.

Despite handling approximately 1000 complaints annually with a team of 30 investigators, Tiroyakgosi highlighted the significant hurdle posed by government offices withholding critical information essential for their investigations.

He stressed the urgent need for a freedom of information law to compel timely disclosure, emphasizing the importance of utilizing collected information responsibly to advance the nation’s interests.

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“Completion of investigations should be done within six months, but some are on status of pending because there should be enforcement or compliance. There is also a lot of non-compliance with the recommendations of the Ombudsman. There are delayed investigations that often arise of responsiveness from government ministries not responding to request for information, not attending meetings as scheduled, therefore delaying conclusions of investigations,” Tiroyakgosi said.

Despite ongoing efforts to educate the public on the Ombudsman’s mandate, Tiroyakgosi noted persistent misconceptions, with some individuals reporting matters outside the office’s jurisdiction, such as allegations of corruption, which fall under the purview of the DCEC.

While recent parliamentary debates on constitutional reform failed to address the Ombudsman’s recognition alongside other oversight institutions, Tiroyakgosi expressed confidence in the constitutional safeguards protecting his office, ensuring similar removal procedures as those for High Court Judges.

Although the primary focus remains on investigating human rights violations, Tiroyakgosi revealed the office’s voluntary involvement in reviewing processes within government departments, offering recommendations for improvement.

Dismissing proposals to grant prosecutorial powers to the Ombudsman due to resource constraints, Tiroyakgosi emphasized the criminality of disregarding the office’s recommendations.

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Looking ahead, the forthcoming Ombud Expo promises to be a platform for global collaboration, fostering dialogue on accountability, democracy promotion, and mechanisms for oversight.

Open to civil society and individuals, the Expo, scheduled from July 29th to August 2nd, aims to issue a Declaration, amplifying the call for accountable governance worldwide.

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