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What Is An Ombudsman, And How Can Malaysia Benefit From Having One

What Is An Ombudsman, And How Can Malaysia Benefit From Having One

According to Azalina, the bill will provide clearer functions and power of Ombudsman Malaysia, which also includes management of public complaints against government departments or agencies.

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Last month, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said announced that the Ombudsman Malaysia bill is in its last phase and will be presented to Parliament in October this year. 

Additionally, Azalina stated that the policies of Ombudsman Malaysia will draw inspiration from similar institutions in other countries, specifically referencing the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

The bill will provide clearer functions and power of Ombudsman Malaysia, which also include management of public complaints against government departments or agencies.

Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said

What Is An Ombudsman?

The term “ombudsman” is derived from Swedish and means “representative” or “agent of the people.”

An ombudsman typically is an independent and impartial official appointed to investigate and address complaints or concerns raised by individuals or groups regarding the actions, decisions, or policies of a particular organization or government body. 

The role of an ombudsman also varies depending on the jurisdiction and the organization they serve. 

However, their primary responsibility is to promote fairness, transparency, and accountability within the entity they oversee. 

In other words, they act as a neutral intermediary between the organization and the individuals affected by its decisions or actions.

According to the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI), 140 countries now have ombudsmen.

However, some of them are regional or local.

Common Functions of An Ombudsman

As stated previously, an ombudsman aims to promote accountability, fairness, and transparency within the organization or government body and provide individuals with a means to address their concerns and grievances.

  • These are some ways they do so:

1. Receiving and Investigating Complaints

An ombudsman has the authority to receive and investigate complaints lodged by individuals or groups who believe they have been treated unfairly or unjustly by the organization and aim to find resolutions and recommend appropriate actions to address the issues raised.

2. Providing Information and Guidance

An ombudsman also often serves as a source of information, providing guidance and clarification on policies, procedures, and rights. 

They can explain the rights and options available to individuals seeking assistance.

3. Mediation and Conflict Resolution

They may also facilitate dialogue and mediate between parties involved in a dispute or conflict, with the goal of reaching a mutually acceptable resolution. 

They can help facilitate communication, identify common interests, and propose solutions.

4. Advocacy and Systemic Change

An ombudsman may identify patterns or systemic issues based on the complaints they receive. 

They can advocate for changes to policies or procedures to prevent future problems and promote fairness and efficiency within the organization.

5. Reporting and Recommendations

Ombudsman also typically have the authority to report their findings and recommendations to the organization or government body they oversee. 

These reports may include suggestions for policy improvements, procedural changes, or remedial actions to address the issues identified.

Benefits of Having an Ombudsman in a Country

So the question still remains, how does having one help Malaysia?

As proved by many countries with an ombudsman, their presence can bring several benefits to an organization or government body, as well as to the individuals and groups they serve. 

  • Some key benefits of having an ombudsman:

1. Fairness and Impartiality

2. Conflict Resolution and Mediation

3. Empowerment and Voice

4. Systemic Improvement

5. Trust and Confidence

6. Organizational Learning

7. Prevention of Legal Action

Hence, in conclusion, ombudsmen play a crucial role in promoting accountability and ensuring that individuals have a channel to voice their concerns or complaints when dealing with an organization or government entity.

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