This status quo has called for Ombudsman institutions to gear up and start championing for improvement in the way public institutions operate.
In his opening remarks of a four-day regional training conference of Ombudsman institutions in Africa held at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) Monday, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu said it was pleasing that the institutions were now championing for systemic change.
The purpose of the training, which has attracted about 70 international delegates, is to strengthen ombudsman institutions in the promotion of transparency, ethics and accountability in the public sector.
“By focusing on weak systems and ineffective structures, we will together eradicate the root causes of maladministration, injustice and corruption.
“These vices have undermined the credibility of many governments, especially in Africa,” said the Minister.
Tembenu said Ombudsman institutions have assisted a large number of vulnerable people all over the world in addressing evils of maladministration.
However, according to the Minister, evidence indicates that the Ombudsman’s efforts have, for long, focused on individual complaints giving less attention to structures of systems from which maladministration appears.
He nevertheless said in the recent past, the Ombudsman institutions have taken a different approach by focusing more on systemic failures than just individual complaints.
“It is however, pleasing to note that the work of the Ombudsman has now geared up to champion systemic change,” he pointed out.
Tembenu told the delegates the training for the Ombudsman institutions has come at the right time- when Malawi was implementing public sector reforms to make such institutions vibrant.
“Citizens expect public servants to serve the public interest, to manage public resources properly and make individual decisions fairly,” he told the delegates.
While acknowledging that the Ombudsman institutions are valuable in a democratic society, the M
inister also advised them to stick to their mandate when discharging their functions.
Speaking earlier, the Malawi Ombudsman, Martha Chizuma said Malawi’s situation in areas of transparency and accountability in the public sector also cuts across other African countries, hence the decision to organize the training for the ombudsman institutions in Africa.
“The principle of accountability holds that government officials, whether elected or appointed, should be answerable to the citizenry for their decisions and actions,” she said.
Chizuma said the question of whether public institutions conduct themselves in an ethical, transparent and accountable manner arises when delivering public service goods to citizens.
She said it was in this context that the Ombudsman institution plays a crucial role in a forum where citizens complain when not satisfied with or the manner in which services have been provided.
On this note, she wondered whether the Ombudsman institution on the African Continent has fulfilled this role.
It is widely expected that during the training, the delegates will be able to share information on challenges as well as best practices in enhancing transparency and accountability to promote good administrative practice and governance in the public sector.
Among other objectives, the four-day conference is aimed at finding strategies on how to strengthen the role of ombudsman in promoting and enforcing accountability, ethics and transparency in the public sector for improved administration and governance.