Ombudsman Plan

Ombudsman Plan: Essays on the Worldwide Spread of an Idea

DONALD C. ROWAT
Copyright Date: 1973
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qf2px
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  • Book Info
    Ombudsman Plan
    Book Description:

    This revised second edition is an account of the rise and worldwide spread among democratic countries of the new and significant parliamentary officer known as an Ombudsman. Originated in Sweden, this position protects citizens against abuses of government by receiving, investigating, and remedying complaints made by citizens about their treatment by governmental officials. Suitable for students of political science, public administration and law. Comments on the first edition:

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8425-9
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    Donald C. Rowat
  4. Part One: The First Ombudsman Systems
    • 1. The Ombudsmen in Sweden
      (pp. 2-11)

      Ombudsmanwas originally a Swedish word meaning a representative or agent of the people or a group of people. Since the word is still used in this general sense in Sweden, there are several kinds of ombudsmen in that country, but as used in other countries the word refers specifically to the SwedishJustitieombudsman, the officer appointed by the legislature to handle complaints against administrative and judicial action. In the English-speaking world this term was at first translated, usually as “parliamentary commissioner for the administration”, and this is the formal title used in the legislation creating the office in New...

    • 2. Finland’s Defenders of the Law
      (pp. 12-25)

      Until recently, not much was known in the English-speaking world about the office of ombudsman in the Nordic countries. Although Sweden had had the office since 1809 and Finland since 1919, it was only after its creation in Denmark in 1955 and adoption in Norway and New Zealand in 1962, that we began to realize its significance as a bulwark of democratic government against the tyranny of officialdom.

      In the early 1960’s, arising out of Britain’s Crichel Down case and the Franks Report, much was written about the need for a similar institution in Britain, and interest in the subject...

    • 3. The First Post-war Adoptions
      (pp. 26-37)

      We have seen that Finland’s provision for an ombudsman was a natural outgrowth of its long association with Sweden, and of its adoption of parliamentary institutions under the republican constitution of 1919. There were no further adoptions until after the second world war, when a third Nordic country, Norway, set up an ombudsman scheme for the armed services in 1952. Denmark then made provision for a general plan under its new constitution of 1953, and appointed its first ombudsman in 1955. After that, the adoptions were more rapid: West Germany provided for a military ombudsman in 1957; Norway added a...

    • 4. West Germany’s Military Ombudsman
      (pp. 38-44)

      West Germany has a magazine calledQuick, which is the equivalent ofLifein the United States. In its issue of June 21, 1964,Quickfeatured an explantion byDie Beatlesof why they were not going to visit Germany and, more sensationally, the first of three articles criticizing the West German army. The story said the army was becoming a state within a state and that it was in danger of recapturing the authoritarian spirit of the Prussian and Nazi armies. This, the article continued, was in direct violation of the democratic principles that are supposed to be basic...

  5. Part Two: The Need for Ombudsmen Elsewhere
    • 5. The Inadequacy of Existing Machinery
      (pp. 46-50)

      The reason for the widespread interest in the ombudsman type of institution is not far to seek: there is need for additional protection against administrative arbitrariness in the modern democratic state. All democratic countries in the twentieth century have experienced a shift from the laissez-faire to the positive state. The accompanying tremendous growth in the range and complexity of government activities has brought with it the need to grant increasing powers of discretion to the executive side of government. As one of Britain’s great constitutional lawyers, A. V. Dicey, has warned, “Wherever there is discretion, there is room for arbitrariness”....

    • 6. The Transferability of the Ombudsman Plan
      (pp. 51-54)

      Let us now consider some of the arguments that have been raised against transplanting the ombudsman plan. One reason the English-speaking world took so little interest in the institution before it was adopted in Denmark is that nothing was known of the Finnish plan, and of the Swedish scheme it was argued that the systems of government and law in Sweden were so different from elsewhere that the scheme could not be successfully transferred. Sweden has, in addition to the ombudsmen, a system of administrative appeal courts, and a unique tradition of publicity whereby the press and the citizens may...

    • 7. Applicability to Differing Legal Systems
      (pp. 55-60)

      As the evidence already presented shows, the Nordic countries and New Zealand are confident that they have developed a worthwhile institution. To the people in other democratic countries who are considering the desirability of its adoption, the important questions are these: Is it really needed in our country? How serious are the objections that may be raised against its adoption? Could the institution be adjusted to fit our circumstances and, if so, what adjustments would be needed? The answers to these questions will of course vary somewhat from one country to another according to the type of constitutional and legal...

    • 8. Some Controversial Questions
      (pp. 61-66)

      Having seen that the ombudsman plan can adapt successfully to differing legal systems, let us now turn to some controversial questions that must be answered in the course of transplanting it: Should the ombudsman be able to criticize not only the fairness but also the reasonableness of decisions? Should he be able to criticize the actions of cabinet ministers? Should a minister be empowered to stop an investigation, and should complaints come to the ombudsman only through members of parliament, as the Whyatt Report proposed? How should the ombudsman be appointed? Should he have the power to prosecute officials? And...

  6. Part Three: Ombudsmen in North America
    • 9. The Relevance of the Plan to the USA and Canada
      (pp. 68-75)

      The ombudsman may seem like a queer topic for me to discuss before a section of the American Sociological Association on the sociology of law. It does not seem to deal with either law or sociology – and I am neither a lawyer nor sociologist. When I gave a paper on this subject a few years ago to the Canadian Political Association, I gave it the title, “The Nordic Public Defenders”, and most members were greatly mystified. The international relations experts, for example, were so confused that they somehow identified the word “Nordic” with “northern”, and “defenders” with “defence”. They...

    • 10. Recent Developments in the USA
      (pp. 76-85)

      Since 1965 a remarkable burgeoning of interest in ombudsmanship has occurred in the United States. Indeed, one might almost call it ‘ombudsmania.’ As one commentator put it in 1966, ‘The Word this year isOmbudsman!’ On December 2, 1966,Timemagazine ran a story headed ‘The People’s Watchdog,’ featuring the two new books on the subject by Walter Gellhorn, eminent Professor of Law at Columbia University. Accompanying the story was a photograph of the ‘Om-’ column from Webster’s unabridged dictionary, to which were added a red insert mark and the word ‘Om-budsman,’ written into the appropriate place in the column....

    • 11. The Case for the Plan in Canada
      (pp. 86-96)

      Canada shares the general characteristics of the parliamentary system that exists in the Commonwealth countries. Among its main features are: a union of executive and legislative powers in a politically dominant cabinet; a single-member, single-vote electoral system that often throws up a huge parliamentary majority which gives obedient support to that cabinet; a tradition of secrecy that permeates the whole administrative structure; and severely limited opportunities for the appeal or judicial review of administrative decisions. All of these lend support to the proposition that the citizens and parliament need the help of an ombudsman in any attempt to get at...

    • 12. The First Provincial Ombudsmen
      (pp. 97-105)

      One of the great advantages of federal government is that an experiment with a new idea or institutional form can be tried on a small scale in one of the states or provinces first. If it is successful there, it will then spread to the others and can safely be adopted by the central government.

      In fact, in Canada some of the provinces have been far ahead of the central government with innovations in recent years, and many important governmental reforms have come about in this way. Nor does the credit go to any one province. Saskatchewan pioneered with experiments...

    • 13. A Federal Scheme for Canada
      (pp. 106-116)

      In 1963 and 1964 two startling cases of individual grievance against government administration shocked the public and promoted the idea of a federal ombudsman in Canada. The first was a case of bureaucratic bungling in which a seaman with an excellent record was discharged from the Royal Canadian Navy for no apparent reason. After much prodding from the opposition, the government finally revealed that he had been judged a security risk because of an allegation that his uncle had been a communist candidate in a recent federal election. Upon further investigation it proved to be a negligent case of mistaken...

  7. Part Four: The Worldwide Spread of the Idea
    • 14. Why and How it Spread
      (pp. 118-121)

      Considering the present worldwide interest in the ombudsman idea, it is strange that the system was not taken up by any country outside Sweden and Finland until after the second world war. What factors hindered and then promoted the international spread of the institution? Since it had existed in Sweden since 1809, and in Finland since 1919, it is remarkable that such closely related countries as Norway and Denmark did not become interested in it until after the war. Why did they not adopt it earlier, and why is it only now that the idea is being widely discussed in...

    • 15. Developed Countries
      (pp. 122-130)

      Among the new developments outside North America, perhaps the most outstanding has been the adoption of the plan in the United Kingdom. In the fall of 1965, the new Labour government issued a White Paper setting forth the general principles of its proposed plan.¹ It followed this up in July 1966, by presenting its bill to parliament and announcing the appointment of Sir Edmund Compton, the retiring comptroller and auditor general, as Britain’s first parliamentary commissioner for administration. This announcement was greeted with consternation by many members of parliament, not because of the person named – nearly all agreed that...

    • 16. Developing Countries
      (pp. 131-138)

      In contrast with the mild interest so far in some of the West European countries, like Belgium and Spain, the ombudsman idea has been spreading rapidly among the developing countries of the world. In Israel, for instance, the cities of Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem appointed complaint officers who are popularly styled ombudsmen, as early as 1966. The one in Tel-Aviv, however, is really part of the executive. Each officer receives about 1,000 complaints a year, of which a large proportion are considered to be justified.¹ The complaint officer in Jerusalem, who is appointed by the city council, seems to be the...

    • 17. Similar Institutions
      (pp. 139-144)

      Because the rise of the positive state in the twentieth century has resulted in a vast bureaucracy in most countries of the world, it is not surprising that a number of them have developed administrative complaint or appeal bodies similar to the ombudsman institution. Some of these are more like it than others, of course. The main measures of their similarity are the degree to which they are independent of the executive and whether they lack the power to make binding decisions. For instance, there is the office of the procurator in the Soviet Union and some other Communist countries,...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 145-148)

    The worldwide discussion of the need for the ombudsman plan has, of course, raised questions about its suitability for countries with varying histories, characteristics and systems of government. Many of the earlier arguments against its transfer were based on the social, legal and constitutional differences between the Nordic countries and those of the Commonwealth, which have the doctrine of ministerial responsibility, or those like the United States, which has a separation of powers between the legislature and the executive. However, the successful adoption of the plan in several Commonwealth countries and its recent adoption at the state and local levels...

  9. Detailed Contents of Appendix
  10. Note on the Author
    (pp. 315-316)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 317-320)