The Ombudsman on Friday welcomed the government’s proposal for legal amendments regarding the provisions for the inclusion in the Constitution the appointment, removal and suspension of the Ombudsman.
Ombudsman Anthony C. Mifsud discussed the government’s proposed legislative changes to the Ombudsman Act during a conference-call meeting with the Venice Commission.
He said that he had regularly and expressly suggested that the Constitution should recognise the status of the Ombudsman and the Auditor-General as authorities answerable to Parliament, entrusted by it to verify that the actions of the Executive conformed to legislation enacted by it and satisfied the requisites of the right to a good public administration.
Mifsud noted that the recommendation made by the government were limited to the discussion of the annual report which outlined a generic picture of the work of the Ombudsman and the Commissioners during the year in review.
This fell short from the opinion made by the Venice Commission which recommended that Parliament should be obliged to debate reports addressed to it by the Ombudsman.
When the Ombudsman’s recommendations for the award of appropriate redress were left pending or were not accepted, the Ombudsman and the Commissioners from time to time sent copies of the reports and recommendations to the House of Representatives.
The Ombudsman had time and time again insisted that it should be the House of Representatives that should finally determine whether the opinion of the Ombudsman and its Commissioners, and their recommendations to rectify administrative injustice, merited to be further discussed to determine whether they were correct and should be sustained.
He recommended that the Speaker should refer reports sent to him by the Ombudsman to the appropriate Standing Committee of the House and that such reference should be followed by a debate statutorily provided for in Standing Orders.
One of the main concerns voiced by the Venice Commission relates to the availability of information that the Parliamentary Ombudsman and his Commissioners required from the public administration for the proper investigation of complaints. In its proposals the government made no reference to this issue, Mifsud noted.
The Office of the Ombudsman, he said, believed that the Freedom of Information Act should be updated using available international models to guarantee transparency of the administration vis-à-vis the media and the citizens.
Even though information to the Office of the Ombudsman was generally forthcoming, the public administration including public authorities adopted a non-cooperative attitude when the subject matter of the complaint or the own-initiative investigation did not conform with the government’s objectives or policies.
“This is fundamentally wrong and unacceptable,” Mifsud said.
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