Legislative Actors’ Resources


Does the parliament have an ombuds office?

The parliament has an effective ombuds office.
The Austrian Ombudsman Board (Volksanwaltschaft) has three chairpersons, with one nominated by each of the three largest party groups in parliament. Parliament is required by law to select these nominees. This prevents the ombuds office from being run solely by persons handpicked by the ruling majority. The Ombudsman Board is a parliamentary instrument and reports regularly to the legislature. The chairpersons are elected for a period of six years.
In 1955, Denmark became the third country in the world, after Sweden and Finland, to introduce the institution of the ombudsman. The ombudsman is appointed by parliament and the office is an independent institution. Citizens can complain to this office about decisions made by public authorities. The office, which had a staff of approximately 100 in 2014, can also initiative investigations on its own and visit other institutions. The ombudsman produces an annual report.

In 2015, there were 4,999 cases, 1,009 were investigated, 3,019 went through other forms of processing and assistance to citizens, and 832 were rejected for formal reasons. In 2016, 4,682 cases were concluded: 18.6% were rejected for formal reasons, 18.1% were investigated, and 63% led to other forms of processing and assistance to citizens. The largest proportion of complaints were about municipalities (1,226 cases), while 177 cases were directed against the Ministry of Immigration and Integration. Regarding other government ministries or agencies, the largest numbers concerned the police (132 cases), the tax administration (121 cases) and state prisons (119 cases).

In a recent special report on IT solutions in the public sector the office found in 2014 that there had been a number of cases where IT solutions had not measured up to requirements in administrative law.

Distinguished law professors have held the position of ombudsman, especially in the early years. Criticisms from the ombudsman normally leads to a change in practice or policy. In short, the ombudsman’s views have very high credibility and respect.
Henrik Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret 2.

Web site of the Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman: http://en.ombudsmanden.dk/ (accessed 20 October 2017).

The Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman, Annual Report 2015. http://beretning2015.ombudsmanden.dk/english/annual_report_2015/ (Accessed 17 October 2016)

The Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman, Annual Report 2017. http://beretning2016.ombudsmanden.dk/english/annualreport 2016/ (accessed 20 October 2017).

“Public Sector IT Solutions. Administrative Law Requirements,” http://en.ombudsmanden.dk/publikationer/public_sector_it_solutions_september_2014_/ (accessed 22 October 2014).
Parliament has an ombudsman office consisting of one ombudsman and two deputy ombudsmen. Established in 1920, it is the second-oldest ombuds office in the world and employs about 60. The officeholders are appointed by parliament, but the office is expected to be impartial and independent of parliament. The office reports to parliament once a year. Citizens may bring complaints to the office regarding decisions by public authorities, public officials, and others who perform public duties (examples of authorities include courts of law, state offices, and municipal bodies). The number of complaints decided by the ombuds office in recent years has varied between 4,500 and 5,000 cases. A considerable number of matters have been investigated and resolved on the initiative of the ombudsman himself, who may conduct onsite investigations when needed.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman (Umboðsmaður Alþingis), established in 1997, investigates cases both on its own initiative and at the request of citizens and firms. It is independent, efficient, and generally well regarded. The office has 11 staff members, including six lawyers. In February 2017, Gallup reported that 51% of respondents expressed confidence in the Parliamentary Ombudsman compared with 22% in parliament.

Norway has a parliamentary ombudsman whose task is to investigate complaints from citizens concerning injustice, abuses or errors on the part of the central or local-government administrations. The ombudsman is also tasked with ensuring that human rights are respected, and can undertake independent investigations. Every year, this office submits a report to parliament about its activities. In general, the ombudsman is active and trusted.
The Polish ombuds office, the Commissioner for Citizens’ Rights, is an independent state organ and is accountable exclusively to the Sejm. It has substantial investigative powers, including the right to view relevant files or to contact the prosecutor general and to send every law to the Constitutional Court. Because of its strong engagement for citizens’ rights ever since its creation in 1987, the ombuds office has traditionally been accorded a good reputation. However, the effectiveness of the ombuds office has suffered, as the institution has been assigned new tasks in the field of anti-discrimination policy, but lacks sufficient new funds to perform the tasks properly. The current Ombudsman Adam Bodnar, a lawyer appointed in September 2015, has become a very active defender of civil and political rights. He called the Constitutional Court on the Anti-Terror Law and on the new laws on high-ranking civil servants, the Constitutional Court and the media. He is also fighting for the rights of his own office, since the Sejm passed a law on 18 March 2016 that makes it easier to remove the person holding the office of the commissioner. He is still in office, but has had a hard time. In 2017, Bodnar got into trouble with misleading statement in which he declared that Poles also contributed to the Holocaust. He subsequently revoked his statement. He intervened in the controversial in the ancient forest logging case, and protested in a court case against the environmental minister and against preventing NGOs challenging the environment minister’s decision in court.
It is fair to say that Sweden invented the ombudsman institution. Sweden currently has seven ombudsmen who focus on the following: legal matters, gender equality, consumer matters, discrimination, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, matters related to disability and matters related to children.

The ombudsman for legal matters (JO), which has been around the longest, is appointed by the parliament, while the government appoints the other ombudsmen. Some of them are their own agencies.

Assessing the effectiveness of the ombudsmen is a difficult task. Their mission is not only to follow up on complaints but also to form opinion in their area of jurisdiction. Their position in the political system and in society appeared to be quite strong during the review period.
A Commonwealth Ombudsman was established in 1977. Its services are available to anyone who has a complaint about an Australian government agency that they have been unable to resolve. Its charter states that it will investigate complaints where appropriate, deal with complaints in an impartial and effective way, achieve fair outcomes, seek appropriate remedies and promote improved administration by Australian government agencies. Its services are free of charge. There are also ombudsmen in all six states and the Northern Territory, which operate on similar principles, as well as a variety of issue-specific ombudsmen.

The independent federal ombuds office was established in 1995. The goal of the office is to have direct contact with citizens and inform them of the administrative process if need be and collect complaints against the administration. Parliament elects members of the ombuds office, but after their election, ombudsmen are totally independent and autonomous from government. The office makes a public report to parliament every year (6,892 complaints and information demands were addressed in 2015, in comparison with 7,018 in 2014). However, the ombudsman’s role is only informative and deals with facilitation or advocacy; it has no coercive power.

Some difficulties occur when a complaint touches upon an issue which concerns both federal and regional or community authorities. Regional authorities have their own ombuds offices, also established in the 1990s and early 2000s. Hence, some overlap occurs.
Czech Rep.
The Office of the Public Defender of Rights serves as a vital protector of civil rights. It delivers quarterly reports and annual reports on its activities to the Chamber of Deputies, including recommendations on where laws could be changed. The office also annually evaluates the extent to which these recommendations were followed. It produces detailed reports on cases it investigates, indicating when laws have been transgressed to the extent that the damaged parties have a solid basis for seeking redress. Since 2015, it is possible to find the full opinions of the office on the internet. In the review period, the office received about 2,000 complaints, of which 68% were within its competence under the law. Most complaints were related to social security, followed by construction permits and spatial planning, the prison system, the police and the army.
The ombuds office is one of the most well-organized public services in the country. The Greek ombudsman is selected and appointed by a group of high-ranking parliamentarians from the Greek parliament and is obliged to report to the parliament by submitting an annual report.

The ombudsman receives and processes complaints from citizens who are frequently caught in the web of the sprawling Greek bureaucracy. Depending on the complaint at hand, the ombuds office can intervene with the central, regional and local bureaucracy. The staff of the ombuds office can pressure the government to change existing legislation and can also inform the prosecutor’s office of any criminal offense committed by administrative employees and officials in the course of discharging their duties. For example, in the period under review, the ombuds office actively and persistently intervened to protect the rights of migrants and refugees, and redress the unfair treatment of a pensioner by the pension fund of private sector employees (IKA).
Information in English on the Greek “ombuds office” is available at http://www.synigoros.gr/?i=stp.en. Accessed on 07.06.2013.
Since the launch of the Ombuds Office in May 2004, residents have sought guidance from this government office. The service is typically used more by foreigners rather than nationals. In 2016, the ombudsman dealt with 857 (2015: 743) requests, due to a strong increase of migrant complaints. Similar to other ombuds offices, the ombudsman can issue recommendations to government and parliament, but cannot take issues to court. In addition, the ombudsman is responsible to the parliament. The first ombudsman of Luxembourg, Marc Fischbach, was a former minister and a former judge at the Human Rights Court of the Council of Europe.

Luxembourg nationals have plenty of recourse when problems with the government administration arise, but the situation is not as simple for foreigners. Even though the country’s labor market is the most transnational in the European Union, there are still numerous obstacles for Luxembourg migrants. Thus, the ombudsman has for years dealt with a number of migration issues.

Among the existing institutions that offer ombuds services (the Ombuds Office, the office for children’s rights, the office for equality rights (based on EU directives 2000/43 and 2000/78) and the Human Rights Commission), the Ombuds Office is best equipped in terms of budget and staff and is most frequently used. The office has a good track record of finding solutions to problems, has issued a number of recommendations and monitors the implementation of the office’s recommendations. One of the reasons for the office’s success might be the preference of citizens to use mediation, instead of contention, a typical occurrence in societies with a strong tradition of consensus. Since February 2012, former Member of Parliament and Secretary of State Lydie Err has assumed the role of ombudsman.
Médiateur. Journal Officiel du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, 2003.
“WELCOME TO OMBUDSMAN.LU.” http://www.ombudsman.lu/index.php?page=accueil&lang=en. Accessed 9. Feb. 2018.
New Zealand
New Zealand was the fourth country in the world to establish an Office of the Ombudsman (in 1962). The office is highly effective in terms of formally or informally resolving complaints. In 2015 to 2016, nearly 12,600 complaints were handled. Organizational reform has been under discussion for a number of years because of an ever-increasing caseload. In addition, there is an even older tradition of dealing with petitions in parliament.
Annual Report 2015/16 of the Ombudsman (Wellington: Office of the Ombudsman 2016).
The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
The Office of the Ombudsman investigates complaints about the administrative actions of government departments, the health service executive and local authorities. Ireland largely follows the Scandinavian ombudsman model. The ombudsman acts in the public interest as part of an overall system of checks and balances, as representing and protecting the people from any excess or unfairness on the part of government. The ombudsman reports to parliament at least twice a year.

Only twice in the 25-year history of the Office of the Ombudsman have its recommendations been rejected by government. In 2009, the ombudsman was invited to appear before the relevant parliamentary committee to explain her views on the matter. The fact that this sort of conflict has arisen so rarely, and when it did it attracted so much publicity, is evidence that the office generally operates effectively and has its findings accepted by parliament.

In addition to the main Office of the Ombudsman, there are separate ombudsmen for the national police force (the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC), financial services, children, insurance, the army, the press and pension issues. These offices are effective in listening to the concerns of citizens in their dealings with government agencies.
The State Comptroller also serves as the state ombudsman. Under this role, the office is authorized to investigate complaints raised by the public regarding ministries, local authorities, state institutions and government corporations. Citizens may file a complaint free of charge if they believe that they were directly or indirectly harmed by an act or an activity of the government; if an act is against the law, without lawful authority, or violates principles of good governance; or if an act is unduly strict or clearly unjust. The office is not obliged to investigate complaints against the president of the state; the Knesset, its committees, or its members, if the complaint refers to acts related to official duties; or a number of other similar issues.

The number of complaints submitted under this provision has risen every year. In 2016, more than 11,800 complaints were submitted, with 41.1% deemed justified after review. The office is internally audited on a yearly basis, with the results accessible online.
Comptroller and the Ombudsman official website: http://www.mevaker.gov.il/sites/Ombudsman/Pages/default.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1 (Hebrew).

Office of the Ombudsman brochure: http://www.mevaker.gov.il/he/Ombudsman/Guidecomplainant/Documents/ntz_english.pdf

“The Ombudsman yearly review number 43 for 2016,” The State comptroller Website (Hebrew), http://www.mevaker.gov.il/he/Reports/Pages/591.aspx

The State comptroller and Ombudsman of Israel. Website (English): State http://www.mevaker.gov.il/(X(1)S(5rxc1pa0jpc1qkpdphpupj5p))/En/Pages/default.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1
The parliament has several ombuds offices, including the general ombudsmen’s office, with two appointed ombudspersons, and the special ombudsman’s offices on Equal Opportunities and Children’s Rights. These institutions supervise state institutions, with a particular focus citizens’ human rights and freedoms. They engage in public advocacy on behalf of citizens, and initiate certain actions, but as a group the ombuds offices lack sufficient legal authority to act as a single national institution for human rights. However, new draft legislation regarding the parliamentary ombudsmen was under discussion in the parliament at the time of writing. The effectiveness of these ombuds offices has depended on the interplay of several factors. First, citizens have shown at best mixed interest in pursuing complaints through these offices, although the number of complaints has been increasing in recent years (the largest number of complaints was registered in 2013). Second, the offices adopted a more proactive attitude toward investigations, focusing on the most significant violations of human rights (e.g., in prisons and other detention facilities). Third, state and municipal institutions are still occasionally unwilling to implement the offices’ recommendations.
In addition to the parliament’s Commission for Petitions, Human Rights and Equal Opportunities, there is an independent ombudsman, who is accountable exclusively to parliament. The ombudsman is elected by parliament for a term of six years and reports regularly to the legislature. The current ombudsman, Vlasta Nussdorfer, was elected in February 2013 with the broadest majority yet seen in the country’s short parliamentary history (82 out of 90 votes). She enjoys a good reputation and is quite effective in settling issues. Her annual reports focus on a wide variety of problems, above all problems with the judiciary, administrative issues and issues with limitations on personal freedom. As with previous ombudspersons, however, Nussdorfer’s role has been occasionally constrained by the lack of interest among members of parliament and ministerial inactivity. In addition, some members of the political opposition and non-parliamentary groups have criticized her lack of action taken in several publicly renowned cases.
The National Ombudsman is a “high council of state” on a par with the two houses of the States General, the Council of State and the Netherlands General Audit Chamber. Like the judiciary, the high councils of state are formally independent of the government. The National Ombudsman’s independence from the executive is increased by his/her appointment by the States General (specifically by the Second Chamber or Tweede Kamer). The appointment is for a term of six years, and reappointment is permitted. Recently, irked by the critical attitude of the former ombudsman, parliament made a series of stumbles, first by nominating a former interest-group leader to the post, who resigned after much public criticism; then 13 months passed before the present ombudsman, a renowned judge, formally took over. The National Ombudsman was established to give individual citizens an opportunity to file complaints about the practices of government before an independent and expert body. Where the government is concerned, it is important to note that the National Ombudsman’s decisions are not legally enforceable. The ombudsman publishes his or her conclusions in annual reports. The ombudsman’s tasks are shifting toward providing concrete assistance to citizens that – due to debts and poverty, digitization and other problems with access to government regulation – have lost their way in the bureaucratic process.
De Nationale Ombudsman, Mijn onbegrijpelijke overheid. Verslag van de Nationale ombudsman over 2012.

De Nationale Ombudsman, Persoonlijk…of niet? Digitaal…of niet? (jaarverslag.nationaleombudsman.nl, con sulted 6 Novermber 2014)


Jaarverslag Nationale Ombudsman, 2016 (Nationale ombudsman, consulted 12 October 2017)
The system of ombudsmen has been expanded over the last years. There are now four different ombudsmen that handle complaints about the civil service in each country within the United Kingdom, namely the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, Northern Ireland Ombudsmen and Commission for Local Administration in England. Further, there is a Parliamentary Health and Service Ombudsman (PHSO) who mainly deals with complaints concerning the National Health Service in England and a Housing Ombudsman who looks at complaints about social housing. However, all ombudsmen’s offices are limited in staff, resources and access to information. For example, ombudsmen have no formal power to see cabinet papers.

A parliamentary consultation in 2015 recommended the merger of ombudsmen into one integrated office of the Public Service Ombudsman (PSO). A draft of that bill was published by the government in December 2016, and was examined by the Housing, Local Government and Communities Committee in an inquiry published in March 2017. It has not, however, come into force as yet.
There is a national ombuds office (the Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria), which is not part of parliament, but is elected by parliament for five years. The Ombudsman is independent in its activities and is subject only to the national constitution, laws and international treaties adopted by Bulgaria. Other than putting arguments to the relevant administrative body and making its opinion public, however, the office has no powers.

The latest available data on the activities of the ombuds office are for 2016, when the Ombudsman gave assistance to 17,362 people. The office actively investigated 7,448 complaints. Most complaints made in the last few years (35% of the complaints in 2016) related to public utilities (mobile and landline phone operators, electricity, heating and water providers, and transport). The fact that the ombudsman has been approached on matters of widespread public concern indicates that the office is seen as a legitimate advocate of citizen rights and the public interest. The present Ombudsman, Maya Manolova, pushed the issues raised in the referendums in 2015 and 2016 to the point of drafting and proposing a bill for changing the electoral system, which is clearly not among the competencies of the office.
Parliament has no ombuds office but plays a key role in the functioning of the (former) Ombudsman office. Until 2011, the médiateur (ombudsman) could intervene in malpractices and administrative problems at the request of individuals but only through the mediation of a parliamentarian. The purpose was to try to solve as many problems as possible through the intervention of elected representatives, and to ask the ombudsman to step in only if the issue could not be addressed or solved in a satisfactory way. In 2011, the office was merged with other independent authorities to form a new body (Le Défenseur des Droits). This new agency is active and respected having demonstrated its independence vis-à-vis the administration and government. However, it has not affected the role of parliamentarians in the process and they continue to channel citizens’ requests.
The standing parliamentary petitions committee is provided for by the Basic Law. As the “seismograph of sentiment” (annotation 2 Blickpunkt Bundestag 2010: 19; own translation), the committee deals with requests and complaints addressed to the Bundestag based on every person’s “right to address written requests or complaints to competent authorities and to the legislature” (Basic Law Art. 17). It is able to make recommendations as to whether the Bundestag should take action on particular matters. Nonetheless, its importance is limited and largely symbolic. However, the committee at least offers a parliamentary point of contact with citizens. Two additional parliamentary ombudsmen are concerned with the special requests and complaints made by patients and soldiers.
Hungary has an Ombudsman of Basic Human Rights, elected by parliament. Unlike its much-respected predecessor, the acting ombudsman, László Székely, has not served as a major check on the government and has not become an important public figure. The Ombudsman Office (AJBH) has been rather busy in small legal affairs such as the protection of children’s rights, but it has not confronted the government about serious violations of civil and political rights.
The ombudsman is elected by a two-thirds majority of the House of Representatives and held in high esteem by the public. The appointment of three commissioners (on the environment and planning, health and education) to investigate complaints as well as the office’s wide-ranging powers to initiate inquiries considerably increased its standing as a watchdog for good governance. A secondary function of the ombudsman is to act as a catalyst for improving public administration. The ombudsman has stated that in pursuing these initiatives he has generally found collaboration from ministries, government departments and public authorities and that there have even been cases where public authorities have sought his advice. The Ombudsman Office, however, is not empowered to deal with human rights complaints and its recommendations are not binding. A recent clarification confirmed that the office has jurisdiction over complaints emanating from the armed forces of Malta. In his 2017 report, the ombudsman drew attention to the lack of jurisdiction his office has over privatized entities, particularly in the health and energy sectors, and the need for a remedy. He also drew attention to the problem of obtaining information from government on sensitive issues. A case in point are the uncensored texts of the agreements on the privatization of the health sector. The ombudsman recommended the office be granted constitutional protections and the appointment of a deputy ombudsman to strengthen the office and to extend the remit of the office to investigate the administrative actions, inactions, decisions and processes of public administration to further good governance.
Aquilina, K. Strengthening the Ombudsman’s office. Times of Malta 14/08/12
On the Strengthening of the Ombudsman Institution: A Proposal by the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman January 2014 Ombudsman.org.mt
The Parliamentary Ombudsman The Independent 27/11/2016
Ombudsman against making hos own recommendations enforceable by law The Independent 04/01/2016
Parliamentary Ombudsman Annual Report 2016
In addition to the Petitions and Complaints Office of the National Council, there is an independent ombudsman, the Public Defender of Rights, who is accountable exclusively to the Council. The Public Defender is elected by the Council for a term of five years and reports regularly to it. From March 2012 to March 2017, Jana Dubovcová, a former judge and one of the most vocal critics of the current state of the Slovak judiciary, took the position. Dubovcová adopted a quite proactive role with regard to anti-discrimination issues and was a vocal critic of unlawful detention cells and the excessive use of force by Slovak police officers in Roma settlements. However, most of her critique was ignored by the ruling majority in parliament and the government, as she was perceived as a “opposition” figure. Usually her reports were not approved by the parliamentary committee for human rights. In March 2017, when her term had expired, Dubovcová was succeeded by Mária Patakyová, a law professor at Comenius University in Bratislava nominated by Most-Híd. Like her predecessor, Patakyová has taken her advocacy role seriously. Despite fierce criticisms by the SNS, she has participated in the Pride Parada in Bratislava in August 2017 and has actively defended LGTBI rights.
Minarechová, R. (2017): Ombudswoman: I need to point out human rights violations, in: Slovak Spectator, August 24, 2017 (https://spectator.sme.sk/c/20633169/ombudswoman-i-need-to-point-out-human-rights-violations.html)
Article 54 of the Spanish constitution regulates the Office of the Ombudsperson (Defensor del Pueblo) as a high commissioner’s office whose holder is appointed by the legislature to respond to requests, and to protect and defend basic rights and public freedoms on behalf of all citizens. He or she is authorized to supervise the activities of the government and administration, expressly forbidding any arbitrariness. The ombudsperson is elected by both houses of parliament for a five-year period (thus avoiding coinciding with the legislative term of four years) by a qualified majority of three-fifths. The office is not subjected to any imperative mandate, does not receive instructions from any authority, and performs its functions autonomously. The officeholder is granted immunity and inviolability during his or her time in the post.

Almost 75% of the recommendations made by Spain’s Ombudsperson are accepted by the public administration. However, its advocacy role is slightly limited by two factors: 1) a lack of resources, and 2) inadequate departmental collaboration during the investigation stage or during implementation of the recommendations. Since 2017, there is only an acting Ombudsperson, since political parties could not agree on the person who should be in charge of the Ombuds office.
Informe enero-junio 2016
https://www.defensordelpueblo.es/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Avan ce_informe_anual_enero_junio_2016.pdf
The federal government (unlike some provinces such as Ontario) does not have an organization called an ombuds office, but it does have certain organizations that are functional equivalents. These include the Access to Information Office and the office responsible for the protection of whistleblowers. The advocacy role of these organizations is limited, however. There are two ombuds offices with special mandates, the Office of the Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces, and the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. Other mechanisms that more informally fulfill an ombuds role include departmental units responsible for investigating appeals of decisions related to social programs such as employment insurance and pensions, and the offices of members of parliament, which act as champions for the interests of their constituents.
The institution of the People’s Ombudsman was introduced with a special constitutional law in 1992, and the first ombudsman started his mandate in 1994. According to Article 2 of the Ombudsman’s Act, the Ombudsman is “a commissioner of the Croatian Parliament for the promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms laid down in the constitution, laws and international legal acts on human rights and freedoms accepted by the Republic of Croatia.” He or she is appointed by the Croatian parliament (Sabor) for a term of eight years and can be reappointed. In practice, most government institutions do not react promptly to the Ombudsman’s requests, with requests often left pending for considerable time.
During its process of political liberalization, Mexico established an ombudsman’s office in 1992. The office is generally respected, and the ombudsman can, and sometimes does, criticize government policy. In 2007, the ombudsman publicly advised President Calderón not to use the army in counter-narcotics activities. Calderón nevertheless sent troops in, which provoked an ongoing discussion on the army’s domestic tasks. More recently, the limited de facto power of the institution has become visible particularly in the field of domestic security (e.g., drug crime, human-rights abuses). In short, while Mexico has an independent and respected ombudsman’s office, it is not necessarily powerful, particularly against the backdrop of an unprecedented spread of violence in recent years.
Congress does not have an ombuds office, as such. Its members, who cultivate close ties with their state or district constituencies, effectively function as a collective ombuds office. Members of Congress each have several staff members who deal full-time with constituents’ requests for service. The total number of staffers engaged in constituency service is at least in the range of 2,000 to 3,000 individuals. A weakness of this arrangement is that it is somewhat informal and the coordination and management of staffers is left up to the individual congressional office. Government agencies do not suggest that clients encountering difficulties contact their senator or representative for assistance, and the constituency-service staff does not develop specialized expertise, except for the most common categories of request. In addition, because the acquisition of experience is massively disaggregated, without any systematic collation of information from the 535 congressional offices, congressional staff are less able to identify general policy or administration problems than an actual ombuds office would be. Congress retains this inefficient organization for dealing with citizens’ problems because it enables the legislators to gain individual political credit for providing services – a valuable commodity with the country’s candidate-centered (as opposed to party-centered) elections.
The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
Cyprus has no constitutionally established ombudsman’s office. Law 3/1991 introduced the Office of the Commissioner for Administration. The commissioner is appointed by the president of the republic upon the recommendation of the Council of Ministers, subject to prior approval by the parliament. The commissioner presents an annual report to the president, with comments and recommendations. A copy is made available to the Council of Ministers and to the parliament. Investigative reports, monthly activity reports and reports on failures to comply with previous recommendations are also submitted to the cabinet and the parliament.

The commissioner does not have oversight power over the House of Representatives, the president of the republic, the Council of Ministers, ministers themselves, courts including the supreme court, or various other officials.
The Ombudsman’s office, http://www.ombudsman.gov.cy/ombudsman/ombudsman.nsf/index_en/index_en?opendocument
While there is no national-level (parliamentary) ombuds office as such, both houses of parliament handle petitions received through their committees on audit and administrative oversight. Citizens and organized groups also frequently submit petitions to individual parliamentarians.

An important petition mechanism is located in the Administrative Evaluation Bureau of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The bureau runs an administrative counseling service with some 50 local field offices that can handle public complaints, as can some 220 civil servants engaged in administrative counseling. In addition, about 5,000 volunteer administrative counselors serve as go-betweens. A related mechanism is the Administrative Grievance Resolution Promotion Council, which includes non-governmental experts.
Asian Ombudsman Association: AOA Fact Sheet – Administrative Evaluation Bureau, Japan, available from: http://asianombudsman.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=133&Itemi%20d=199&lang=en
A law establishing a Turkish ombudsman office, called the Public Monitoring Institution (KDK), was adopted in June 2012 and went into force in December 2012. The office is located within the Parliamentary Speaker’s Office, and is accountable to parliament. The ombudsman reviews lawsuits and administrative appeals (from the perspective of human rights and the rule of law) and ensures that the public administration is held accountable. In 2014, a total of 5,639 petitions arrived at the Ombudsman and by the end of 2014 it had addressed 6,348 complaints (including the pending cases from 2013). According to the KDK itself, two main obstacles hamper the efficacy of its work. First, the degree of compliance with its decisions has been low, with only 20% of its released decisions having been obeyed by public administrative bodies. Second, under the current law, the KDK cannot conduct inquiries on its own initiative. Moreover, the mandate of the office does not cover administrative actions performed by military personnel.

The Parliamentary Petition Committee reviews citizens’ petitions (a total of 6,055 in 2015) and refers them to the relevant authority, when appropriate. The Human Rights Investigation Commission has the authority to receive, investigate and review complaints on human-rights issues. The Commission on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men is entitled to review complaints regarding violations of gender equality.
The Ombudsman Institution (2014) ‘The Chief Ombudsman Annual Press Conference,’ http://www.ombudsman.gov.tr/en/content_detail-322-779-the-chief-ombudsman-annual -press-conference.html (accessed 10 December 2014)
T.C. Kamu Denetçiliği Kurumu 2016 Yıllık Rapor, https://www.ombudsman.gov.tr/contents/files/KDK-2016-YILLIK-RAPORU.pdf (accessed 1 November 2017)
TBMM Dilekçe Komisyonu 24. Dönem Faaliyet Raporu, https://www.tbmm.gov.tr/komisyon/dilekce/docs/faaliyet_raporlari/24_yd_faaliyet_rapor.pdf (accessed 27 October 2015)
Italy does not have a national ombuds office. Some functions are performed by regional ombudsman offices (difensore civico). Through questions and other oversight instruments, members of parliament perform with significant vigor an analogous advocate’s function with regard to issues and complaints raised by citizens.
Russo, F. & M. Wiberg (2010). Parliamentary Questioning in 17 European parliaments: Some steps toward comparison. The Journal of Legislative Studies, vol. 16(2), pp. 215-232
The Romanian Ombudsman was established in 1991 after the ratification of the country’s first post-communist constitution and is appointed by both chambers of parliament for a term of five years. The current Ombudsman is Victor Ciorbea, a former prime minister (1997-1998) and senator tainted by allegations that his legal practice has defended the interests of some notorious corrupt politicians. Nominated to the post in April 2014, Ciorbea has been criticized for ignoring the concerns of ordinary citizens and championing those of politicians. In one blatant example drawing concerns, Ciorbea challenged in January 2017 a law that bans convicted individuals from joining the government. The challenge, if accepted by the Constitutional Court, would have helped Liviu Dragnea to become prime minister of the new PSD/ALDE cabinet in spite of the fact that he was previously convicted of corruption and rigging elections. In August, Ciorbea celebrated the Ombudsman’s 20th anniversary with a lavish party. In mid-November, the press revealed that Ciorbea was guilty of tax evasion (RON 200,000), as was his wife (RON 400,000).
South Korea
The South Korean parliament does not have an ombudsman office. Under the Lee Myung-bak administration, the government’s ombudsman office was merged with the civil rights and anti-corruption agency into the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission of Korea (ACRC). This commission is accountable to the president and may to some degree be seen as a functional equivalent to a parliamentarian ombuds office. However, it seems that merging the two institutions (both under the authority of the president) has made the ombuds office less transparent. President Moon has promised a reform of the ACRC, part of which will include increasing its independence. People can also petition the government directly without approaching the parliament or the ombudsman. A Foreign Investment Ombudsman (FIO) system hears complaints by foreign companies operating in Korea. The FIO is commissioned by the president on the recommendation of the Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy, via the deliberation of the Foreign Investment Committee. The FIO has the authority to request cooperation from the relevant administrative agencies and recommend the implementation of new policies to improve the foreign-investment promotion system. It can also carry out other tasks needed to assist foreign companies in resolving their grievances.
Office of the Foreign Investment Ombudsman, http://www.i-ombudsman.or.kr/eng/au/index.jsp?num=3
The parliament does not have an ombuds office.
parliament does not have a formal ombuds office. Efforts to establish such an office failed twice under previous governments. However, the National Congress and its members listen informally (but not systematically) to concerns expressed by citizens and public advocacy groups, inviting them to congressional hearings. In general terms, direct-democratic elements in Chile are quite weak.
The Estonian parliament does not have an ombuds office. There is, however, a separate and independent Legal Chancellor who performs the ombuds function. To raise an issue or forward a concern, citizens must contact their member of parliament. If a citizen wants to obtain information regarding the functioning and work of the parliament, he or she can submit information request (offline or online).
The parliament does not have its own ombuds office, but does have a committee for ethics and petitions. This committee fields all submissions from individuals and NGOs, including collective petitions which have reached the 10,000-signature threshold.

An independent ombuds office was created in 2007 following the reorganization of the Latvian National Human Rights Office. The ombuds office is charged with investigating citizens’ complaints, monitoring human rights and proposing governmental action to address systemic issues. Since 2011, the ombuds office has been active in monitoring social care facilities for the disabled, closed institutions, access-to-justice failings, issues of equal access to free education, and discrimination against women as well as raised public awareness on hate speech. In 2016, the ombuds office received 1,893 complaints, 54 of which led to investigations. The ombuds office reports annually to parliament.
1. Ombudsman of Latvia Annual report (2016) Available at (in Latvian): http://www.tiesibsargs.lv/uploads/content/lapas/Tiesibsarga_2016_gada_zinojums_1489647331.pdf, Last assessed 20.11.2017
Portugal does not have a parliamentary ombudsman. However, there is a judicial ombudsman (Provedor de Justiça), which is situated in the judicial system. It serves as the advocate for citizens’ interests.
There is no ombuds office at the federal level in Switzerland. Some cantonal administrations do have an ombuds office, however.
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