Paper presented at the South African Association of Public Administration and Management (SAAPAM) 9th Annual Conference, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, 30-31 October 2008. The Conference theme was "Consolidating state capacity".
As various reviews on the functioning of a modern administrative state
continue to highlight the persistent maladies of bureaucratism in the public
sector realm. The establishment of ombudsman institutions, the world over, is
given credence by the need to foster improved performance in public administration
and enhance governmental accountability to the public in ways that nurture the
ideals of good governance. This paper examines the role of Ombudsman institutions
in the procurement of legal responsibilities and the promotion of good governance,
elsewhere in the Commonwealth, but with particular case reference to Canada,
South Africa and Uganda. It analyses compelling literature on the Ombudsman
institutions’ orientation, matters of regulatory and jurisdictional type, appointment. It
also interrogates whether there is a standard that guides Ombudsman offices across.
It is argued that, despite the varying legislative and jurisdictional mandates, there are
common denominators that underpin Ombudsman institutions, punctuated by similar
systemic weaknesses. It is further argued that, however thorough, independent and
threatening the Ombudsman institution can be, it can never prevent wrongs from
public agencies unless there is an adaptive political culture and administrative system
that cherishes goodwill. The Ombudsman can thus, only thrive under a democratic
dispensation with vibrant civic competence.