CHRAJ AS THE OMBUDSMAN OF GHANA, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

For every true democratic society to thrive, there must be a system which guarantees accountability, respect for human rights and adherence to rule of law. For without which the desire and aspiration of progress and prosperity will remain an illusion. The essence of these mechanisms is to ensure good governance, accountability and safeguard against impunity or abuse of power. To achieve such an ideal, one of such means is the idea to establish institutional framework called the Ombudsman.

Historically, the idea of the Ombudsman began in the Scandinavian region which idea was conceived by King Charles XII of Sweden. Around 18th century, King Charles during wars with Russia meant that the King would be away for a very long time. King Charles considering the vacuum created due to his absence decided to appoint an official who would keep an eye on the royal officials‒ military, doctors, teachers and other public officials. This creature was to ensure the protection of citizens from abuse and dictatorial tendencies of powerful royal officials. This creative establishment over several decades spread across the rest of Europe and the world.

What is the Ombudsman?

The term Ombudsman is loosely translated as the ‘citizen’s defender’ or ‘representative of the people’. Traditionally, the ombudsman is a person appointed who is charged with an oversight responsibility over the public sector. However, over time, institutions such as CHRAJ have also been granted the Ombudsman mandate coupled with other mandates are usually referred to as hybrid-Ombudsman.They are generally established by constitutions or statutes; charged with the responsibility of representing the interest of the public with a certain degree of independence. The Ombudsman exercises its oversight mandate by investigating complaints relative to maladministration and violation of human rights that are brought to its attention. It also deploys other mechanisms such as alternative dispute resolution such as mediation, negotiation, conciliation; and reports on the outcome of those investigations by issuing out decisions to appropriate authorities for action.

CHRAJ as Ghana’s Ombudsman

The concept of Ombudsman in Ghana found expression in the 1969 and 1979 Constitutions of the second and third republic respectively. However, the Ombudsman was never established during the span of the second republic until the third republic which saw Justice Kojo Andoh appointed as the first Ombudsman of Ghana pursuant to the Ombudsman Act(Act 400), 1980. The office was confronted with several administrative bottlenecks thereby undermining its effectiveness.

To cure these challenges therefore, the 1992 Constitution which ushered in the fourth republic incorporated the Ombudsman office into CHRAJ, and vested it with enforcement powers, thus making it the oversight body of all administrative entities in the country. This significant mandate is thus expressed through the following provisions under article 218 of the 1992 Constitution which provides that “the function of the Commission shall be defined and prescribed by act of parliament and shall include the duty:

(a) to investigate complaints of violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms, injustice, corruption, abuse of power and unfair treatment of any person by a public officer in the exercise of his official duties;

(b) to investigate complaints concerning the functioning of the public service commission, the administrative of state, the armed forces, the police services and the prisons service in so far as complaints relate to failure to achieve a balanced restructuring of those services or equal access by all to the recruitment of those services or fair administration in relation to those service;

(c) to investigate complaints concerning the practices and actions by persons, private enterprises and other institutions where those complaints allege violations of fundamental rights and freedoms under the Constitution.”

Clearly, the above provisions of the 1992 Constitution impose a wide range of oversight responsibilities on CHRAJ to investigate every single public officer in Ghana once a complaint is lodged with it.

When Can Citizens File Complaints Under the Ombudsman Mandate?

In the first place, citizens can complain about any incident under the ombudsman mandate when there is any acts of discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, ethnicity, or socio-economic status; disrespect for and violations of one’s human rights or refusal to provide reasonable explanation to legitimate questions.

Also, when a public officer makes it difficult for an individual to access a public service; reckless disregard for procedures occasioning inequities, hardship or injustice among others.

Furthermore, individuals can also lodge a complaint if all efforts to have any of the above scenarios resolved with a public sector institution have proved unsuccessful.

Advisory

The Commission there fore urges the Ghanaian public to report any acts of administrative injustice experienced to CHRAJ for investigations.That way, the tenets of checks and balances, accountability and good governance would be entrenched in the Ghanaian society as contemplated by the Constitution.

By CHRAJ
Email:info@chraj.gov.gh

Show More
Back to top button