Saturday, June 26, 2010

Faux Ombudsmen V Real Ombudsmen: Reason 1 Impartiality

[Wikiepedia: The origin of the word Ombudsman is found in Old Norse umbuðsmann and the word umbuds man, meaning representative (with the word umbud/ombud meaning proxy, that is someone who is authorized to act for someone else, a meaning it still has in the Scandinavian languages).]

A real Ombudsman by acting as a citizens champion, representative or proxy could overcome the inherent imbalance between the citizen and a public authority.

Instead of a David V Goliath scenario the citizen could count on the help of the Ombudsman to level the 'playing field' between themselves and the public authority and would not be disadvantaged by Public authorities throwing massive financial, legal and human resources into intimidating the citizen into submission.

Unfortunately when the British Government sought to introduce Ombudsmen into this country they decided not to introduce the Real Ombudsman model, preferring instead to introduce a variation, the so called impartial or Faux Ombudsman. Thus maintaining the inherent imbalance between the citizen and public authorities whilst at the same time, by calling them Ombudsmen, maintaining the false pretence that they had actually introduced a Real Ombudsman.

So whilst Ombudsmen in many other countries, those that haven't adopted the British model, still act as a citizen's champion, representative or proxy we now have Ombudsmen who proudly boasts they are impartial and don't take sides. Thus providing little if any help to the citizen when faced with a system inherently and significantly biased in favour of the public authority.

A slightly modified quote from Desmond Tutu summarises the problem regarding impartiality.

"If, like Local Government Ombudsmen, you remain impartial in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are impartial, the mouse will not appreciate your impartiality."

More to follow.

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