Ombudsman Essay Example

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Ombudsman in Australia

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Ombudsman in Australia


In a generic sense, an ombudsman can be perceived as an official often under the appointment of the government or parliament but with a substantial level of independence. These individuals are mandated with the role of representing the interests of the public through investigating and addressing complaints of violation of rights or maladministration. In this case, a trend in ombudsman processes of handling complaints is geared towards promotion of the larger concept of solution in assisting members of the public who are bound to suffer disadvantage as an implication of poor administrative practices (McMillan, 2010, 11). Against this backdrop, this paper will explore the purpose of ombudsman, the functions of the ombudsman and whether they can successfully bring about the outlined purposes and lastly investigate whether they have different functions to tribunals and courts, for instance, power of influence and persuasion.

Purpose of ombudsman

It is imperative to note that one of the most salient features in the 20th century was the growth of the function as well as powers of various governments. This elevated level of activities among these governments emanated from the need to deal with the problems which were posed by large-scale urbanization and industrialization as well as the increased growth of integrated national economies. Diverse scholars have attributed this trend to the advances in technology and communications (Caiden, 1964, 97).

These developments culminated in the necessity of an agency to enforce the rule of law in government, protect the vulnerable citizens in different populations against the abuse of power, check the propriety of decisions made by diverse administrations as well as ensuring that the solutions which are provided for those who are wronged by defective agency action. This necessitated the development of an ombudsman which is generally report to parliament but does not have the power of enforcing any recommendation or solution which they might consider appropriate in addressing administrative malpractices or errors.

In the contemporary times, the ombudsman offices have been focused on specific industries aimed at addressing the distinct administrative malpractices in these industries. This is best epitomized in the Australian telecommunication industry whereby the creation of an industry based ombudsman aimed at resolving consumer complaints in the telecommunication industry has been perceived as unique Australian innovation (Stuhmcke, 1998, 807). The subsequent section explores the functions of the ombudsman and whether they can successfully bring about the outlined purposes.

Functions of ombudsman

Ombudsman undertakes diverse functions which are aimed at the attainment of the above purpose. Nonetheless, it is imperative to be cognizant of the fact that most ombudsman in Australia have similar responsibilities and powers.

The first core function of the ombudsman is to investigate, either on the ombudsman’s own motion or upon the receipt of a complaint from a member of the public diverse actions which relate to an administrative matter. Secondly, the ombudsman takes the function of performing and expediting any act or duty required by law to stop, prevent, and correct any abuse or impropriety in the performance of duties by government employees among other parties upon receipt of a complaint or on its motion.

Thirdly, the ombudsman assumes the function of determining the causes of inefficiency, mismanagement, red tape and corruption in different levels of the government and proceeds to make recommendations for their elimination and the adherence with high standards of efficiency and ethics. This is best epitomized by practices like workplace bullying which has been termed as a special case of workplace aggression which refers to efforts by individuals in the workplace to deliberately harm others with whom they work (Keashly, 2010, 11). In this case, the ombudsman assumes the function of determining the cause of this trend and making recommendations on how to eliminate it and instigate observance with high standards of efficiency and ethics.

The last function of the ombudsman which will be explored in this paper is that of inviting any government agency for information or assistance which is fundamental in the processes of discharging its responsibilities and if necessary to examine pertinent documents and records.

In regard to the question of whether they can successfully bring about the outlined purposes, it is worth noting that there are several imperatives which ought to be put in place to ensure the desired success. To begin with, there is great dependence upon an open and conciliatory approach in order to guarantee the success of the ombudsman in the process of resolving systematic problems. This encourages ombudsman among other agencies to constantly engage in real negotiation and disclosure of any relevant information.

The other imperative is founded on informal and flexible nature of the operations of ombudsman which causes them to focus on strategic allocation of their resources. In this case, this agency can be able to deal with systematic issues, initiate investigations as well as reviewing the effectiveness and execution of legislations.

When both of the above imperatives are observed, the ombudsman has the capacity of stretching its influence as well as impacting government agencies, decision making in governments, practices and procedures to a greater extent than courts and tribunals which makes them to successfully bring about the outlined purposes.

Differences in functions with the courts and tribunals

There are several differences in functions of ombudsman when juxtaposed with the courts and tribunals. Firstly, it is imperative to note that ombudsman and their offices cannot engage in the enforcement of their recommendations or make conclusive determinations. Nonetheless, courts have this power embedded in their functions.

On the other hand, in case the ombudsman exercises determinative powers, there is limited likelihood of it conducting more exhaustive and time consuming exercises of investigating and making efforts aimed at persuading agencies that there is a necessity of better administrative practices. In this case, the ombudsman can be viewed to have minimal power of influence and persuasion when compared with the courts and tribunals.


The above analysis has forwarded a definition of an ombudsman as well as its purpose of this agency. Additionally, it has outlined the diverse functions of ombudsman coupled with investigating the question on whether they can successfully bring about the outlined purposes. Lastly, this paper has revealed that the ombudsman has different functions to tribunals and courts, for instance, power of influence and persuasion.


Caiden, Naomi. 1964. ‘An ombudsman for Australia’. Australian Journal of Public

23(2): 97-116.

Keashly, Loraleigh. 2010. ‘Some Things You Need to Know but may have been Afraid to Ask:

A Researcher Speaks to Ombudsmen about Workplace Bullying’. Journal of the International Ombudsman Association, 3(2): 7-23.

McMillan, John. 2010. ‘Ten challenges for administrative justice’.

Stuhmcke, Anita. 1998. ‘the corporatization and privatization of the Australian

telecommunication industry: The role of the telecommunications industry ombudsman’. UNSW Law Journal, 21(3): 807-833.