Kenya Ombudsman seeks autonomy

March 20, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 20 – The Public Complaints Standing Committee (PCSC) is seeking more independence from the Executive to become more effective in discharging its mandate.

Executive Director Kenneth Mwige told Capital Newsbeat on Thursday that it was difficult to exercise an oversight authority over the entire public service while only instituted as a department under a ministry.

Mr Mwige said the office was seeking a parliamentary Ombudsman office model completely separating the office from the Executive.

“This will help us exercise authority from a law making point of view,” Mr Mwige said. “We need a real measure of independence. If you sit inside the Executive it becomes very hard to exercise real oversight authority.”

Currently, the office operates as a department under the Justice ministry. It was established under a gazette notice thus lacking legal mandate it needs to fully carry out its supervisory authority.

“If you look at the history of this office… an office Ombudsman is a person that is respected by the public sector and the citizens and the process of achieving the independence is important to us.”

The Executive Director said consultations on a draft Ombudsman Bill were underway.

“Next week we are going to be sitting down with the State Law Office and the Kenya Law Reform Commission to discuss the draft and see whether the Bill as developed is sufficient for purposes which the Ombudsman office should serve,” he said in the exclusive interview.

In April and May, the office will engage with the Parliamentary committee on the Administration of Justice and Legal Affairs on the issue.

Mr Mwige however hoped that the institution would be made a constitutional office in the upcoming law review process.

“Right now there are challenges. You write to some constitutional offices and they don’t respond to you. In fact they question your authority. You cannot blame them because in their constitutional provisions they are insulated to inquiries,” he said adding that such challenges would be cured if his office became a constitutional one.

The PCSC is mandated to receive complaints from the public and follow up with the relevant government offices. It is expected to make quarterly reports with administrative and legal recommendations to the Office of the President.

On Thursday it released two quarterly reports for the months of June to December in which the Police Department, Nairobi City Council and the Provincial Administration had the highest number of complaints.

The ministries of Lands and Labour were shamed for failing to respond to complaints lodged against them.


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