ISLAMABAD: Forum of Pakistan Ombudsman conducted a two-day workshop on ‘Challenges of Ombudsmanship’ in Pakistan in collaboration with International Ombudsman Institute and World Bank on September 25-26. The deliberations focused on the challenges being faced by Ombudsman at federal and provincial levels in effectively delivering the mandate which is to provide inexpensive and prompt justice to citizens aggrieved by maladministration by the government functionaries. The participants used their collective wisdom, experiences, and expertise to develop recommendations on how best the forum can be used to convert the challenges of Ombudsmanship in Pakistan into any opportunity to upgrade accountability for maladministration and ensure better service delivery by public servants to citizens of Pakistan. Another important issue which was raised by the forum was the harassment of women at the workplace. In the end, Federal Tax Ombudsman Abdur Rauf Chaudhry said that this forum has an essential role to play. He said that reports including recommendations and observations shall be sent to Ombudsmen and chief ministers respectively. He hoped that the next meeting will be held soon in which further observations and suggestions will be taken up and decided. It is very much encouraging that the President has directed all the ministries in writing that no ministry can agitate on the decisions by the Ombudsman. And the ministries are not allowed to go further to Supreme Court or High Court but it can’t be applicable in the case of individual. The Ombudsman should lay emphasis on the implementation of decisions.
The Ombudsman is the second most powerful person of the country. It is observed that total of 35,000 to 40,000 complaints are redressed annually.
Last year total of 34531 cases were reported amongst them 15,951 cases are admitted, 2678 are registered, the cases on which suo moto action has been taken are 36 and 242 are children cases, out of which 103 are decided.
Following are the recommendations presented in the workshop:
- Information and Communications Technology be used as a force multiplier to enhance performance and productivity of all Ombudsman offices.
- A true, paperless office be established by every Ombudsman based on digitized recordkeeping and electronic storage, access and collation of data.
- Jurisdiction issues pertinent to individual Ombudsman be addressed viz Wafaqi Mohtasib jurisdiction issue over military cantonments.
- Jurisdictional anomalies between Ombudsmen be resolved viz Insurance Ombudsman vis-a-vis Wafaqi Ombudsman.
- A codified/digitized database of maladministration cases to be maintained by all Ombudsmen.
- The FPO will hold workshops and conferences in the provincial headquarters also.
- FPO to hold such workshops every quarter for the first year beginning with this workshop and bi-annually thereafter.
- One Line budget be adopted for all Ombudsman offices.
- Budgetary constraints especially as regards the provincial Ombudsmen of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhawa be addressed.
- Special needs of vulnerable members of society be addressed by the respective Ombudsman viz children.
- Human rights issues especially as regards Federal Ombudsman for Protection against Harassment of Women at workplace be tackled effectively in all provinces. Budget, Staff and office requirements to be met on priority basis.
- Workplace harassment be appreciated in its true, gender neutral perspective and all workers be encouraged to come forth with their grievances.
- The Federal Ombudsmen Institutional Reforms Act 2013 be adopted by the provincial Ombudsmen set-up as well.
- A concerted effort be made to project the Ombudsman through the media to increase public awareness.
- Making prime time telecasting of a common public service message to be designed by FPO for all Ombudsmen compulsory for all TV and Radio channels and the print media.
- Special attention be paid to significantly reduce the time taken to dispose of complaints.
- Deptt’s/organizations under the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman be required to display on their websites and in their offices through banners how to get redress against public grievances from Ombudsmen offices.
- FPO to design (i) a common Organogram for Ombudsman offices; (ii) a common lean and flat administrative set-up (iii) Uniform service rules (iv) Uniform salary structure and (v) explore possibility of locating all Ombudsman offices in one building at Regional Offices to undertake one building operation of Ombudsman for redress of citizens grievances.
- Ombudsman offices to enhance focus on diagnosing and redressing systemic issues to preempt repetition of same grievances.
- Implementation to be brought under increased focus in terms of the President’s directive, the Prime Minister’s orders and a judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in this regard.
- Ombudsmen offices to institute self accountability mechanism.