’Ombudsman Not There to Embarrass Government’

The Ombudsman says his job is not to embarrass or expose government or make government look bad but rather to tidy up government’s processes.

Ombudsman Aocate John Walters, who spoke to New Era on Friday on the side line of his meeting with South Africa Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, also confided that he is aware of the public perception that his office is inactive.

“There is a perception that I am not active. I don’t know what I must do to be active. Yes, maybe we may not be as visible as other Ombudsman in the world. But over the years, we have developed a human rights action plan and it has been accepted by Cabinet. We are spearheading the action plan. The office’s visibility was strengthened last year with investigations in which the late Frieda Ndatipo was killed. I made my report and people still want reasons,” said Walters.

“Although we have sometimes exposed bad things. Government is not always wrong but where it is wrong we say it [without] fear or favour. For us citizens always come first,” he said. Madonsela also shared Walters’s sentiments saying, “We don’t have any hostile relationship with government. We just help them.” Walters also commented on the case of Frieda Ndatipo’s death. The 26-year-old child of the liberation struggle was shot dead last year near the Swapo Party headquarters in Windhoek during clashes between police and the children of fallen independence fighters. The children of the liberation struggle were demonstrating for jobs.

He said since Ndatipo died of unnatural circumstances, the matter must be referred to the prosecutor general, who has to make a decision. Ndatipo’s case is a criminal offence, which the Ombudsman investigated because a person’s life was lost.

“When a person loses his or her life, the prosecutor general has to make a finding whether to prosecute or not. I was requested by government to investigate the matter, as an independent body and impartial institution, otherwise, the police will investigate themselves and that is not desirable. That is when I came. It was a special report and as required by the Act, I made the report available to government on the investigation,” Walters noted. An inquest will be heard before an independent court where all people or witnesses will testify before court and then the judge will make a decision and the general public will have all the information.

“I cannot make it public because there is still a hearing by the court,” he remarked. According to the Ombudsman’s annual report for 2013, the Namibian police topped the list of complaints against government institutions from about 394 cases launched in 2012 to 483 in 2013, followed by the Ministry of Justice with 425 complaints laid with the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman received 2 343 complaints of which 1 288 relate to maladministration and 236 to human rights. The majority of the complaints, 1 627 in total, were received from males and 629 from females. While about 48 were from groups and gender was unknown for 19 complaints.

The Ombudsman managed to resolve 79 percent of the complaints received and only 21 percent remained unresolved, which is a huge improvement compared to 58 percent resolved in 2011 and 53 percent in 2012.

The majority of complaints, 437 in total, were received from the Khomas Region, followed by Otjozondjupa with 262 complaints. The Omaheke Region recorded the lowest number of complaints with only 45, while nine complaints were received from outside the country.

The Ombudsman’s core functions are to receive and investigate complaints from aggrieved persons against government institutions as well as private companies or employers and persons when they concern human rights.

However, the report has revealed that human rights complaints continue to increase, with 13 percent from 2011 to 2012 and an 8 percent increase from 2012 to 2013.

Source : New Era