Ombudsman’s mandates do not cover private sector

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The powers of the ombudsman are limited to government departments, public institutions, enterprises and agencies; it is not mandated to investigate maladministration and related issues in the private sector.

“We are not mandated to investigate the private sector yet,” the ombudsman, Fatou Njie-Jallow, said at the opening of a daylong workshop organised by her office yesterday at Senegambia Beach Hotel.  The workshop was organised for the Gambia Armed Forces, State Intelligence Services, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and the Gambia Revenue Authority.

She said although the mandates of the ombudsman do not cover the private sector, it received a lot of complaints from the private sector workers and as such, it gives advice as to the appropriate avenue to seek redress.

“We have been working with the relevant authorities in a bid to widen our jurisdiction to include the private sector,” she said.

The ombudsman enhances the lofty goals of good governance through access to justice, promotion of the rule of law and protection of human rights. 

It is mandated by law to investigate and make recommendations on issues of maladministration, injustice, discrimination, corruption and unfair treatment in any government institution or parastatals.

The ombudsman serves as public protector, complaints commission, human rights protector and mediator.  The office also serves as a broker not only to articulate the rights of the ordinary citizen but to also act as checks on the administrative arms of government.

Mrs Njie-Jallow said the ombudsman after holding any enquiry or investigation, recommends appropriate actions or steps for the remedying, correction and reversal of matters through means that are fair, proper and effective and based on the existing laws and regulations, and code of conduct of the civil service and service rules of institutions concerned in the case of parastatal.

“I am pleased to report that we have 99% compliance to our recommendations,” she said.

Besides, she continued, the ombudsman recognises the importance of the protection of the fundamental rights and freedom of all Gambians, particularly those in prisons and detention.

It was for this reason that the ombudsman organised the daylong workshop for its staff on the roles and functions of the Gambia Arm Force, the State Intelligence Service, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and the customs section of the Gambia Revenue Authority.

The workshop was to prepare the ombudsman staff for the task of visiting detention centres.  The office of the ombudsman had requested from the Ministry of the Interior for an unrestricted access to prisons, police cells and all places of detention which has been granted.  

The main objectives of the proposed visits to these detention centres is to conduct inspections and investigations to make prisons and all detention centres more transparent and to draw attention to problems and conditions endured by vulnerable prisoners. 

“With this any unjust, unfair, unsound and illegal conditions will be discovered and recommendations made for corrective measures,” she said. “The ombudsman will ensure that detainees are kept in a conducive environment and to report to government its findings and make appropriate recommendations in line with the optional protocol on the convention against torture.” 

Author: Cherno Omar Bobb