5 Facts: Office Of The Political Ombudsman

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Donna Parchment Brown was sworn in as Jamaica’s fourth Political Ombudsman on November 16, 2015, by Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen. She succeeds Bishop Herro Blair, who resigned in 2013. Jamaica’s first ombudsman was Resident Magistrate Errington Green, appointed in 1977. The second ombudsman, Justice James Sewell Kerr OJ, QC, was appointed in 1988. The role originated in Sweden in 1909-1910.

The ombudsman has been described by then-Attorney General and Justice Minister AJ Nicholson as “a protector of citizens of a country against the abuse of power and their human rights.” Here are some key facts about the office:

  1. The ombudsman is authorised to carry out investigations relating to issues that constitute or are likely to constitute a breach of any “agreement, code or arrangement… in force between or among political parties in Jamaica” or are “likely to prejudice good relations between the supporters of various political parties.” The ombudsman may investigate complaints brought forward by “any person or body of persons, whether incorporated or not.” However, he cannot hear complaints from public service organisations or local authorities. Complaints to the Political Ombudsman must be made in writing.
  2. The person appointed Political Ombudsman holds office for a period of seven years. At the end of this time, he may be re-appointed for an additional five years, after which no additional re-appointment is permitted.
  3. The Political Ombudsman may be removed from office only for inability to discharge his duties, whether due to physical or mental illness or for misbehaviour. He may also demit office upon turning 70 or request to be relieved of his duties by the Governor General at any time prior to that.
  4. The Political Ombudsman cannot be a member of the Senate or the House of Representatives or an undischarged bankrupt (still involved in court proceedings related to bankruptcy). A person is also disqualified if he has been convicted of any offence involving a breach of standards of justice, honesty, or good morals.
  5. The ombudsman is required to submit to Parliament an annual report outlining the execution of his duties. He may also submit reports relating to any particular case under investigation by his office which, in his opinion, requires the special attention of Parliament.

For more information, read the full Political Ombudsman (Interim) Act available at the Ministry of Justice website.