The Roles and Functions of the Office of the Ombudsman in Kenya

By George Gĩthĩnji Last updated on
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The Role of the Office of the Ombudsman in Kenya

The Office of the Ombudsman in Kenya is also known as the Commission on Administrative Justice in Kenya. Article 59 (4) and Chapter Fifteen of the Constitution establish this office. The Commission on Administrative Justice Act, 2011 also establishes The Office of the Ombudsman in Kenya.

The Commission on Administrative Justice in Kenya has many mandates. Among the mandates of The Office of the Ombudsman in Kenya are:

  • To investigate any conduct in state affairs or any act or omission in public administration in any sphere of Government and
  • To investigate complaints of abuse of power, unfair treatment, manifest injustice or unlawful, oppressive, unfair, or unresponsive official conduct.

The Commission on Administrative Justice in Kenya replaced the Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission (KNHREC) and the Public Complaints Standing Committee.

Vision, Mission and Core Values of the Office of the Ombudsman in Kenya

Its vision is to be an effective overseer of responsiveness and servant-hood in public offices at national and county levels.

Its mission is to enforce administrative justice and promote constitutional values. It does this by addressing maladministration through effective complaints handling and dispute resolution.

The core values of the Commission are:

  • Fairness – treat people equally or in a way that is right or reasonable.
  • Accountability – act with integrity, account for activities, and accept responsibility.
  • Diversity – recognize and appreciate individual uniqueness.

Strategic Objectives of the Commission on Administrative Justice in Kenya

The Commission’s strategic objectives for the period 2013 to 2016 are to:

  1. Enhance responsiveness and accountability in the public sector.
  2. Strengthen complaints handling capacity of public sector institutions.
  3. Enhance public awareness and participation in matters of administrative justice.
  4. Improve standards of public administration and adherence to the rule of law.
  5. Strengthen the capacity of the Commission to deliver on its mandate.

Scope of the Office of the Ombudsman in Kenya

The Commission draws its mandate from the Constitution and the Commission on Administrative Justice Act and Regulations, among others.

The scope of work extends to both the national and the county governments.

  • Maladministration

Maladministration is the primary role of the Office of the Ombudsman in Kenya. It includes service failure, delay, inaction, inefficiency, ineptitude, discourtesy, and unresponsiveness.

  • Administrative Injustices

The Commission looks into allegations of administrative injustice. This includes an act or decision carried out in the Public Service or a failure to act when necessary.

The constitutional requirement of fair administrative action includes expeditious, efficient, procedurally fair action; and, an entitlement to written reasons for such action.

The Commission steps in to ensure compliance by public officers.

  • Misconduct and Integrity Issues

The Office of the Ombudsman in Kenya ensures compliance with the integrity requirements in the law by public Officers. The Commission investigates improper conduct, abuse of power and misbehavior in the public service.

  • Advisory Opinions and Recommendations

The Commission provides advisory opinions or proposals on improvement of public administration. It also makes recommendations on legal, policy, or administrative measures to address the specific concerns. The recommendations may be published or confidential. It covers offices and processes in the national and county governments.

  • Capacity Development in Government

The Commission develops capacity of national and county government officials in Ministries, Institutions, and Departments. It trains the officials on effective methods of handling complaints in-house. It also assists county and national governments, and independent state institutions, to set up complaints handling facilities.

  • Performance Contracting

The Commission utilizes resolution of public complaints as an indicator of performance contracting. Public institutions submit quarterly reports detailing complaints received and action taken. The Commission rates institutions and issues certificates on compliance. The certificate informs the overall national rating of the institution.

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution

The Commission works with different public institutions to promote alternative dispute resolution. It facilitates alternative dispute resolution on matters affecting public administration. These alternative dispute resolution methods include negotiation, mediation and arbitration.

  • Promotion of Special Rights

The Commission on Administrative Justice in Kenya promotes compliance of the rights of minority and marginalized groups in public administration. This complements its duty to secure protection and promotion of human rights and freedoms in public administration.

  • Promotion of Constitutionalism

The Commission serves to protect the sovereignty of the people of Kenya. This it does by ensuring all state organs observe the principles of democracy and constitutional values. It also ensures they respect the supremacy of the Constitution.

Issues people complain about to the Office of the Ombudsman in Kenya

These issues include the following:

  • Inaction against the police.
  • Unfair dismissal from work.
  • Delays in receiving national IDs or passports.
  • Delays in receiving pensions.
  • Abuse of office by public officers and state officers.
  • Cases of unresponsiveness and delays, e.g. against the Ministry of Lands on issuing title deeds.
  • Irregular allocation of land to private developers.
  • Illegal transfer of land ownership without the consent of the owner.
George Gĩthĩnji is a political and social commentator. Twitter @EpikKenyan
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