Sarawak first to have ombudsman service in Malaysia – Talib

Talib (second left) double checking his winding-up speech on his tablet while (from left) Kalaka assemblyman Datuk Abdul Wahab Aziz, Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah and Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau look on.

KUCHING: Sarawak is the first government in Malaysia to start an ombudsman service.

According to Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office (Integrity and Ombudsman) Datuk Talib Zulpilip, the federal government or the other states in the country have not done this.

Therefore, without experience and local models to follow, he would not be able just yet to conceptualise fully the responsibilities of the new ministry, especially on the Ombudsman function, he said.

Quoting Oxford Dictionary, Talib said ‘ombudsman’ means an official appointed to investigate individual’s complaints against a company or organisation, especially a public authority.

“In British, ombudsman refers to an information term for Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration,” he said in his winding-up speech for his ministry during the State Legislative Assembly sitting yesterday.

Talib said an ombudsman functions to investigate and resolve disputes between the people and the government and it ensures that government services are done effectively and without malpractice and corruption through the application of the principle of check and balance.

“The ombudsman is one of the ways of resolving disputes outside the court.”

In Australia and UK, he said ombudsman is not only used in the administration but applied also to the business sector such as private colleges and clinics.

“In some Scandinavian countries an Inspector General, a Citizens’ Advocate or other public officials may have duties similar to those of a national Ombudsman. They may also be appointed by the legislature.

“Below the national level, a state, local or municipal government may appoint their own ombudsman. Private business and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) may also appoint their own ombudsman.”

In Sweden, where the practice of ombudsman originated in 1809, Talib said public complaints against malpractice in the public service and local government are handled by the ombudsman.

“The functions of the ombudsman in Sweden are to ensure that public authorities and their officials comply with the laws and other statutes governing their actions and to initiate disciplinary procedures against an official for misdemeanours.”

Talib pointed out that various countries in the world had adopted the ombudsman model from Sweden.

Taking New Zealand as an example, he said the functions of ombudsmen in New Zealand are to investigate complaints against government agencies; investigate agencies that fail to provide information requested in accordance with the Official Information Act; protect whistleblowers and investigate the administration of prisons and other places of detention; and encourage good administration by giving feedback and training to agencies.

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