Kenya Ombudsman toothless

August 18, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 18 – The Public Complaints Standing Committee is finding itself in a desperate and frustrating situation with little recognition of their role from various government institutions.

The body initially instituted to handle public complaints is itself complaining that the institutions it is mandated to oversee have refused to respond to complaints against them and have exhibited an attitude of impunity and arrogance slowing down the pace of action on complaints.

While releasing its second quarterly reports on Tuesday, Chief Executive Officer Ken Mwige singled out the Public Service Commission (PSC) as one department that has dismissed the mandate of his office while the Police, Local government, Nairobi City Council and Lands Ministry have failed to respond to correspondences. During the period of the report the Ombudsman office received 270 complains.

“We have had particular difficulties with the PSC because it adopts the position that it is not obliged to give any reasons for the decisions it takes. But it cannot be a sufficient answer to say that one is a constitutional body and therefore not obligated to respond to us,” he complained.

“The Ombudsman is not going to relent on this and we will continue to push. If a decision is taken in the public service we want to know why that was done.”

Appointed two years ago to handle public complaints and support the reform agenda of the government the committee has received a total of 1790 cases but has only successfully mediated 370. Some complains have not been responded to for over one year.

Formed through an Act of Parliament, the committee has no legal mandate to act and depends on goodwill from public officials. The Ombudsman office, as it is commonly known, has been pushing for their entrenchment into the Constitution to give them ‘teeth to bite.’ An Ombudsman Bill is in formulation and it is expected to give the team powers to summon officials and to demand for documents.

“Like in cases where institutions we can easily summon officials to explain to us why certain things are done the way they are done,” PCSC Chairman James Simani said.

It is hoped that the Bill will oblige all institutions to act on their correspondences. 


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