MANDATES OF THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN
Four distinct mandates can be identified from the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia as well as the provisions of the Ombudsman Act (Act 7 of 1990). The four broad mandates are the following:
The Ombudsman Act provides that the Ombudsman must receive complaints before it can act on a specific matter to investigate and to give the proper remedies.
The public at large have to deal with government officials on a daily basis. There is a general expectation that such officials be fair, polite, sensitive, etc. towards a member of the public. It happens in specific cases that such an official departs from the standards that are expected from him or her. The general public needs protection against such officials, because the officials are at times put at places where they have been given certain powers. Such powers must be exercised fairly and timeously.
The Ombudsman has a duty to offer the necessary protection. The Ombudsman will carry out such an investigation and thereafter propose suitable remedies if the complaint is found to be true. The Ombudsman can negotiate or mediate between the parties as part of methods to resolve the problem. The Ombudsman can also make recommendations to the relevant Respondent Institutions to take action against an officer or to have the offending practices stopped. Should such a recommendation not be carried out by the Respondent Institution, the Ombudsman can approach the High Court, by way of an application to obtain an interdict for the enforcement of its recommendation to have the offending actions stopped or to have its recommendation implemented.
It is important to note that the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman relating to issues of administrative practice are limited to officials in the employ of any organ of Government (National or Local Government) as well as officials in the employ of para-statals enterprises owned, managed or controlled by the State or an enterprise in which the State or government has a substantial interest. Officials in the Namibian Police, Namibian Defence Force as well as the Prison Service are also subject to the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman for issues relating to administrative practices. Judges of the Superior Courts are not regarded as officials for the purposes of the investigations of the Ombudsman. A judicial officer, like a magistrate, is also not subject to the investigations of the Ombudsman for action resulting from the performance of a judicial function.
There are good examples of incidents where the Ombudsman can intervene and provide remedies. The following are such examples.
An inhabitant of Namibia applies to the Ministry of Home Affairs for citizenship. The officials at the relevant Ministry fail to process the application. The concerned person can approach the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman will investigate the conduct of the relevant official and the basis of the refusal to process the application. The Ombudsman will also satisfy itself whether the relevant person complies with the requirements for citizenship in terms of the Namibian Constitution as well as the other laws. A recommendation will then be made to the Ministry of Home Affairs to process the application.
Another example is where an official employed by the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF) fails or neglects to make pension payments. An aggrieved person may approach the Ombudsman, who will satisfy itself about the facts of the matter as well as the relevant laws and regulations and make recommendations to GIPF to offer the remedies.