Ombudsman independence in the works

Martin Endjala

A long overdue cry for the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman will soon become a reality.

Once the proposed legislation that will give the office teeth and punitive powers, bringing to book all those not complying with orders of the Ombudsman to appear before it in relation to investigations carried out by the Ombudsman.

This was revealed by the Minister of Justice Yvonne Dausab when she was responding to a question by the Popular Democratic Movement MP, Reggie Diergaardt on the recommendations made by Ombudsman on granting it autonomy.

The bill, she said, is in the final stages of review by the Cabinet Committee on Legislation before it goes to legal drafters for being tabled in the National Assembly probably in the seventh session of parliament in 2023.

‘’ Once passed, the bill will have significant implications on the functioning and structure of the Office of the Ombudsman. Chief among those will be the complete independence of the office and its total separation from the Ministry of Justice, which includes a separate financial vote,’’ said Dausab.

In terms of the proposed changes the Ombudsman will also have its own Executive Director and staff, and own budget vote.

The proposed amendments will also have language, textual and constitutional implications, she said, therefore, it requires careful consideration and consultation, which has been undertaken on numerous occasions and platforms.

Additionally, she highlighted the cost of setting up the office.

‘’ The current economic conditions are challenging, making it difficult to financially commit to the extrication of the office from Justice, but the principle is supported and will be actualised at the appropriate time,’’ she informed the house.

Dausab said the executive recognises the importance of the office and its work and is ‘’doing what we can to achieve the recommendations of the Committee (Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs), including the constitutional issued raised therein, and commit to seeing it through’’.

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