The way organisations are directed and controlled to ensure that they are effective in achieving their objectives.
Principles of good governance:
- Openness and transparency
- Clarity of purpose
The British and Irish Ombudsman Association (OA) has many kinds of bodies in membership, each with its own structure designed to meet its individual needs. Ombudsmen, Commissioners, Examiners, Adjudicators, Complaints Reviewers and Handlers have become a more common feature over the years of the landscape of administrative justice, dispute resolution and redress. As the number of such schemes increases, questions of governance assume particular importance.
If a scheme is to be credible, all stakeholders must have confidence in it and in the independence and effectiveness of the Office holder in the role of investigating and resolving consumer or public service complaints. Because of the nature and diversity of schemes, OA recognises that the practical application of governance principles will of necessity differ between organisations. For that reason, it has been decided to produce a statement of high level principles (the OA Guide to principles of good governance).
OA’s criteria (for the recognition of Ombudsman offices) sets out the requirements that a scheme must fulfil if it is to become a full voting member of OA. These requirements underpin the key criteria of independence from those being investigated, effectiveness, fairness and public accountability.
But this is a complicated area and the diversity of complaint handling schemes means that different standards will necessarily apply to different organisations not all of which aspire to full membership. This Guide to principles of good governance is one of high-level principles which reflects this diversity and is intended to supplement the Criteria. We hope that this will be useful to schemes, prospective schemes and the wide range of stakeholders with an interest in Ombudsman matters.
Six principles have been identified and briefly defined. The Guide then goes on to a brief analysis of each, identifying the characteristics which distinguish that particular principle and which make it appropriate to the governance of an Ombudsman scheme, all the time bearing in mind that these principles are in fact interdependent.
The Guide is being supplemented by further material and information on this website, which it is hoped will be of additional assistance to those to whom the Guide is addressed.
In the ‘Guide’, reference to ‘Office Holders’ means Ombudsmen, Commissioners, Examiners, Adjudicators and Complaint Reviewers and Handlers in or aspiring to OA membership. ‘Schemes’ means all their organisations, whatever their formal titles may be. ‘Stakeholders’ is intended to include those who are entitled to complain, the organisations and sectors under scrutiny, consumer and trade bodies, Government, members of parliament or assembly, regulators, the media and the general public (as applicable). The nature and objectives of certain schemes may bring in other stakeholders.
While the first obligation of any Ombudsman scheme is to those directly involved, complainants and those who are complained about, the legitimate interests of other stakeholders must also be recognised.
Sample governance arrangements in OA member schemes (to follow)
Discussion forum (to follow)