Public Protector implores Ombudsman institutions to strive for credibility
It is only credible institutions of the Ombudsman that will be equal to the task of serving their countries effectively to curb excesses in the exercise of public power and control over state resources, Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela said this week.
The Public Protector, who is also the Executive Secretary of the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association (AOMA), was speaking at a dinner in Ezulwini, Swaziland Thursday night, at the invitation of that country’s federation of employers and chamber of commerce.
Addressing the event on, The Role of the Public Protector in Ensuring Good Governance – Lessons for Swaziland, she endorsed the establishment of the Swazi Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration Integrity three years ago, saying parallels could be drawn between the body and her office.
However, the Public Protector emphasised the importance of ensuring credible institutions of the Ombudsman and the dangers of having Ombudsman institutions that were lacking on that front, saying that some of the African countries that had experienced problems, with members of the public revolting against their governments, had such institutions. “Credible Ombudsman institutions operate with independence and impartiality. They don’t lie to the state when government does not act in the best interests of the people. This is because such institutions are good friends of the state. A good friend does not tell you all is well when in fact you are headed for a cliff,” she said.
The Public Protector said governments needed to support such institutions, adding that in South Africa, the Constitution called on organs of state to assist and protect such institutions with a view to ensuring their independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness.
Governments, she added, needed to work with such institutions in order to ensure that there is strong public confidence in states. “More than anything leaders in government need to say what they mean and mean what they say on issues of good governance and the rule of law.”
The Public Protector said, as AOMA, Ombudsmen were determined to work with the African Union to position the Ombudsman institution among the pillars of good governance, peace and democracy in the continent.
Through administrative justice, they will invariably contribute to human rights, even those not established specifically for human rights, she said.
“For the institutions themselves to succeed they must speak truth to power. They must be fair, swift and firm.”
The Public Protector added that partnership at all levels of society, including business, the public and the media, were also important for purposes of ensuring public accountability and good governance.
Earlier the Public Protector met with Acting Prime Minister, Themba Masuku, who noted that Swaziland had contributed immensely to shaping the person she had become. The Public Protector acquired her first law degree from the University of Swaziland.
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