Ombudsman a Swedish word signifying an agent or representative, and institutionally represents a public official appointed to deal with individual complaints against government acts. The office of Ombudsman originated in Sweden in 1809. As a government agent serving as an intermediary between citizens and the government bureaucracy, the ombudsman is usually independent, impartial, universally accessible, and empowered only to recommend. In the United States, the term ombudsman has been used more extensively to describe any machinery adopted by private organisations (eg large business organisations and universities) as well as by government to investigate complaints of administrative abuses. Ever since 1809, most European countries have adopted the institution of the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman in United Kingdom is called Parliamentary Commissioner. Everywhere the Ombudsman is elected by the parliament. The political parties in the parliament normally elect the Ombudsman unanimously.
The functions of Ombudsman are to exercise general supervision over courts and the civil services. He is required to investigate charges of illegality, negligence to duty or the misuse of official position, pay special attention to offices involving fraud, abuse of power or those impeding the cause of justice. The Ombudsman ensures that no one in an official power breaks either the Constitution or the laws of the land or the rules and regulations which administrative agencies are assigned to uphold. The main purpose of the institution is to maintain among the civil servants integrity and honesty, in general, and any kind of administrative excess done by civil servants in any field of administration, in particular.
The Ombudsman has no punitive powers. Where there has been a fault of some substance, for example, the misuse of public property, he can suggest that the officer concerned should make restitution, as an alternative to prosecution by the court. He has also no power to change decision of any judge or administrative officer. All these limitations, however, do not mean that the office of Ombudsman is ineffective for the control and correction of administration. If an officer refuses to follow the recommendations of the Ombudsman on the plea that his decision is within the existing rules and regulations, the Ombudsman is authorised to report to the parliament or the minister concerned, the cause of noncompliance. He is allowed to point out defects in the existing laws and regulations.
The Constitution of Bangladesh has a provision for the Ombudsman, though it has not yet been implemented. The Article 77 of the Constitution provides for the establishment of Ombudsman by Jatiya Sangsad. The Article lays down that the Ombudsman shall exercise such powers and perform such functions as Sangsad may, by law, determine, including the power to investigate any action taken by a ministry, a public officer or a statutory public authority. [Ali Ahmed]