Independence and Accountability: Legitimizing the Ombudsman
For all the many good reasons that exist to explain and justify the role, technique and work of the ombudsman enterprise, its pre-eminent status within the constitution and general legitimacy cannot be taken for granted. As with other similarly established bodies, the long-term legitimacy of an ombudsman scheme depends upon stakeholders being able to retain confidence in the operation of the office and the determinations that the ombudsman makes. Without adequate arrangements in place to guarantee the ombudsman model, ombudsmen are exposed to the criticism of arbitrary decision-making, ironically the very objective that the institution is designed to contribute towards preventing. To secure confidence in its work, classically, alongside its claims to expertise and the fairness of its procedures, ombudsmen rely upon three key institutional features: statutory and frequently parliamentary support, independence and accountability. Properly addressing these three institutional features in the design and management of an ombudsman scheme is key to securing the ombudsman’s effectiveness. This chapter analyses the manner in which current ombudsmen systems deal with each of these issues.