November 25, 2003 - USA Ombudsman: Does Peace Corps need a Ombudsman?

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Special Reports: October 26, 2003: Dayton Daily News reports on Peace Corps Safety and Security: November 13, 2003 - Dayton Daily News: RPCV Ambassador Tony Hall says Peace Corps needs to make some changes : November 25, 2003 - USA Ombudsman: Does Peace Corps need a Ombudsman?

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Tuesday, November 25, 2003 - 10:04 pm: Edit Post

Does Peace Corps need a Ombudsman?

"For as long as government has existed, guaranteeing citizens fair and equitable treatment under the law has been an issue and various protections have been utilized over the years. In modern times the public sector Ombudsman, where instituted, has been a successful and valuable guarantor of citizens' rights."

The Peace Corps has recently come under criticism for allegedly failing to respond adequately to concerns about the Safety and Security of volunteers and about follow-up with volunteers who have been separated from service after suffering violence or medical problems. Ambassador and Former Congressman Tony Hall, one of Peace Corps' most distinguished Returned Volunteers, recently raised the issue of an Ombudsman for the Peace Corps:
"If I were still in Congress, I'd say there needs to be some kind of victims' liaison or ombudsman for volunteers and their families. They need answers and follow-up. I think a lot of the anger and frustration that I read in the articles came from poor communication."
Read and comment on this article from the United States Ombudsman Association that explains what an Ombudsman is and what his or her function is within a governmental agency and leave your comments below on whether or not you think the Peace Corps should have an Ombudsman at:

Does Peace Corps need a Ombudsman?*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Does Peace Corps need a Ombudsman?

For as long as government has existed, guaranteeing citizens fair and equitable treatment under the law has been an issue and various protections have been utilized over the years. In modern times the public sector Ombudsman, where instituted, has been a successful and valuable guarantor of citizens' rights. By impartial and independent investigation of citizens' complaints, it have provided an informal and accessible avenue of redress.

The first public sector Ombudsman was appointed by the Parliament of Sweden of 1809. The Swedish Constitution divided and balanced power between the King and Parliament with the King having executive powers and Parliament retaining legislative power. The Ombudsman, who was appointed by and responsible to Parliament, was to protect individual rights against the excesses of the bureaucracy.

This first Ombudsman's Office, since its creation, has been the model for the public sector Ombudsman, and set the definition that is still accepted today: a public official appointed by the legislature to receive and investigate citizen complaints against administrative acts of government. These acts may or may not include the administrative acts of the judiciary or the legislature, depending upon the statute. Ombudsman is a gender neutral term, used through out the world by women and men who hold the office.

The Ombudsman concept spread through Europe, and to this continent with the first offices being established in the United States in the mid 60's. This was a time in the USA when exposure of government secrecy and scandal, and when movements such as civil rights and good government created a political atmosphere more favorable to openness, and to establishing recourse for the aggrieved.

Hawaii established the first office in 1967. Since then a number of states, counties and municipalities have followed suit by establishing offices of general jurisdiction. The Ombudsman movement in the U.S.A. has also been characterized by offices that represent a departure from the Swedish model. These variations would include offices with general jurisdiction but appointment by a governor or mayor, legislative offices with special jurisdiction such as corrections, single agency ombudsman with statutory authority.

Characteristics of the Ombudsman
Early in the Ombudsman movement, the American Bar Association recognized the value of the institution and wrote in 1969 the criteria that remain the guidelines for creating an Ombudsman Office.

The American Bar Association recommends:

1. That State and local governments of the United States should give consideration to the establishment of an ombudsman authorized to inquire into administrative action and to make public criticism.

2. That each statute or ordinance establishing an ombudsman should contain the following twelve essentials:
(1) authority of the ombudsman to criticize all agencies, officials, and public employees except courts and their personnel, legislative bodies and their personnel, and the chief executive and his personal staff;

(2) independence of the ombudsman from control by any other officer, except for his responsibility to the legislative body;

(3) appointment by the legislative body or appointment by the executive with confirmation by a designated proportion of the legislative body, preferably more than a majority, such as two-thirds;

(4) independence of the ombudsman through a long term, not less than five years, with freedom from removal except for cause, determined by more than a majority of the legislative body, such as two-thirds;

(5) a high salary equivalent to that of a designated top officer;

(6) freedom of the ombudsman to employ his own assistants and to delegate work to them, workout restraints of civil service and classifications acts;

(7) freedom of the ombudsman to investigate any act or failure to act by any agency, official, or public employee;

(8) access of the ombudsman to all public records he finds relevant to an investigation;

(9) authority to inquire into fairness, correctness of findings, motivation, adequacy of reasons, efficiency, and procedural propriety of any action or inaction by any agency, official, or public employee;

(10) discretionary power to determine what complaints to investigate and to determine what criticisms to make or to publicize;

(11) opportunity for any agency, official, or public employee criticized by the ombudsman to have advance notice of the criticism and to publish with the criticism an answering statement;

(12) immunity of the ombudsman and his staff from civil liability on account of official action.
3. That for the purpose of determining the workability of the ombudsman idea within the Federal government, the Federal government should experiment with the establishment of an ombudsman or ombudsman for limited geographical area or areas, for a specific agency or agencies or for a limited phase or limited phases of Federal activity.

4.That establishment of a Federal government-wide ombudsman program should await findings based on the experimentation recommended.

The United States Ombudsman Association, the national organization of public sector Ombudsman, has incorporated these criteria in its By-laws. They also are integral to the USOA annotated Model Statute for Ombudsman Offices which builds on 30 years of experience with the concept in the U.S.A.

An Ombudsman's power and responsibilities

The essential characteristics of an Ombudsman's Office are independence, the ability to investigate complaints which often includes subpoena power, the ability to criticize government agencies and to recommend changes that may be issued in public reports. An Ombudsman, however has no enforcement or disciplinary powers.

The Ombudsman is a paradox, being both powerful and powerless at the same time. They can investigate complaints, choosing which are the most important and initiate investigations without complaints. They set an agenda by what they choose to investigate. They can determine whether a complaint is justified and seek remedies for it. They can compel people to talk to them and produce records, subject to the protections witnesses have in court. But they cannot make an agency do anything. They can, however, make their reports public. Aside from choosing what questions to ask and issuing subpoenas, their powers are mainly persuasion and publicity.

An ombudsman generally does not have the power to investigate the people who appoint the ombudsman and other elected officials, and does not have the power to look at the judicial acts of courts. Voters have remedies such as recall or impeachment for elected officials. Unfavorable court decisions can be appealed to a higher court. Complaints about judicial misconduct may result in an administrative sanction of a judge or rejection of an incumbent at the polls. The ombudsman is not an alternative to these traditional remedies.

Ombudsman Jurisdiction
This varies according to the law creating an office. For a general jurisdiction Ombudsman, the administrative acts of most, if not all, agencies in a local or state government are within an ombudsman's mandate. A specialty ombudsman looks at the acts of a single agency or a group of agencies that work in a single area of concern such as children issues.

Appointment of an Ombudsman
Enabling legislation will determine the appointment process of an Ombudsman. As this office of an Ombudsman is one that must operate with the trust and respect of the community, it is recommended that the selection process be one that is not unilateral but is shared by appropriate legislative and/or administrative committees and bodies. The efficacy of an office is largely dependent upon a widely held view of the Ombudsman as a person of integrity, who works with non partisan fairness and ethical behavior.

Enabling legislation for many ombudsman offices requires the complainant's identity be kept confidential. People need to be able to talk to the ombudsman and staff in confidence. Some choose not to file complaints. Others want their complaints recorded but not pursued. Confidentiality is critical to creating confidence that complainants can talk to the ombudsman without their identity being disclosed against their will.

Complaint Handling
Complaints that come to an Ombudsman's Office are screened to determine if the complaint is in the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman, whether the complainant has utilized the government agency's established complaint process, and whether there is validity under the law to the complaint. The Ombudsman helps citizens understand how government agencies operate, what are the appropriate laws, rules, policies, or how citizens may handle complaints themselves.

Those complaints that are accepted are objectively investigated by the Ombudsman. Informal resolution is often attempted with the agency. When this is not possible, the full power of the office may be utilized, which could result in a public report containing recommendations to the agency or to the legislature. Many jurisdictions provide whistle blower protection for both complainants and witnesses who may contact or be interviewed by the office. This is done to ensure the ombudsman has access to all of the facts in a matter and prevent retaliation against those who seek help from the office.

In resolving complaints, it is also the responsibility of the Ombudsman to identify patterns of abuse of power or negligence by government that would require legislative attention.

Most public sector Ombudsman are required to report annually to the appointing authority. With much of the Ombudsman's work being done quietly and in confidentiality, the Annual Report is an opportunity for the Ombudsman to speak publicly on issues of concern. Annual Report will contain statistical information on the contacts by citizens during the prior year, an analysis of these statistics, and recommendations that flow from this analysis.


Ombudsman perform an unusual role in government. While they receive complaints from the public, their job is not to be become an advocate for the complainant or the governments they have jurisdiction over. Ombudsman are charged with collecting and evaluating all of the facts regarding a matter as a neutral investigator. They determine if there was an error, unfairness or harm by the agency involved, or no basis to the complaint. Ombudsman make recommendations to correct wrongs done to individuals to improve the administration of government. If their recommendations are not accepted and good reasons not given, the ombudsman may become an advocate for their implementation.

With an Ombudsman's Office, people who have problems with government, have a place to seek solutions, independent explanations, investigations and recommendations.

An Ombudsman's Office, by providing a direct and informal avenue for the mediation of citizen grievances is a valuable tool for enhancing the relationship between a government and its citizens and ultimately for improving the administration of government itself.

Click on a link below for more stories on PCOL

Read the series on Safety and Security here

Leave your comments on the series below.

Read comments by RPCVs here, here and here.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Ombudsman; Safety and Security of Volunteers; Investigative Journalism



By ( - on Thursday, November 27, 2003 - 8:29 am: Edit Post

The Ombudsman Only makes recommendations.

What about wrong doing? Doesn't Tony think they should own up to holding back careers and hurting families of Peace Corps?

The IG at Peace Corps gives recommendations and look what they have done to Peace Corps safety.

Let us have even footing with Peace Corps attorney's and have lawyer appointed by the legislative body. That is when we will get our justice and Peace Corps will be held in check and attrition rates will signigantly reduce. It will also improve safety.

Why? Because the focus will off the administration having too much power and handing some back to the volunteers who really serve.


By ( - on Sunday, November 30, 2003 - 8:28 am: Edit Post

In this article, it says, if recommendations are not implemented or and good reasons not given, then the Ombudsman can be an advocate. What kind of advocate? A lawyer? What right would the Ombudsman have?

By Mark Vinzant ( - on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - 9:04 am: Edit Post

Yes, The Peace Corps does need an ombudsman who has the abilities and authority to effectively communicate and advocate on behalf of volunteers.

And please tell Mr. Vasquez to either get focused on bringing the Peace Corps into what the new century needs or go on his own way.

By Paul Rufo ( - on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - 10:24 am: Edit Post

It was my sad experience with Peace Corps many years ago that I was terminated after 20 months of service due to complaint by a Peace Corps leader whose father was a member of the U.S. Congress. During this episode I was never given "due process" and was quickly urshered out of the country.

Since that time I have made it a point to avoid any government service job. In this case, an ombudsman would have helped.

By Pailes ( - on Sunday, September 05, 2004 - 10:49 am: Edit Post

When will this be implemented? Many people are writing to me and others want to know when the Senate will sign this office into law and we can get started with our official complaints against the agency due to our service related security and health problems Peace Corps created.

Personally,I think it's lip service and will occur years from now. So, let us get started. We wouldn't want more articles about Safety issues with the DDN.


By Prince Franck Ekoue Hagbonon ( on Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - 2:34 pm: Edit Post


C'est avec beaucoup de respect que je vous ecrit, pour vous avertir de la situation du Prince Franck Stephan Yves Ekoue Hagbonon.

En effet, Le Prince et son pere Toussaint Ekoue Hagbonon, avaient confie a Monsieur jean Chretien, a Lome, Togo, en 1981-1982, une importante quantite d'or et des items, pour construire deux banques au Canada.

La banque du Prince Franck Stephan Yves Kangni Ekoue, est une Banque de Montreal.
Depuis sa construction, Monsieur Cleo Santana, a ete enfermer dans le vault de la banque, et il represente les intererts du Prince, et prend toutes les dcisions importantes pour lui.

Le probleme, c'est que depuis la destruction du world Trade center, Kponton Nesto, l'homme contre qui le Prince est refugie au canada, a multiplier ses activites et ne veut que tuer le Prince.

Le Prince Franck Ekoue, n'a pas encore toucher a son argent , ni a son compte en banque.

Le Prince Franck Ekoue, aimerait grandement que vous l'aidiez, pour qu'il prenne possession de son compte personnel... Mais surtout pour qu'il ai acces a ses biens.

Monsieur Cleo Santana, agit comme si, le Prince est une autre personne, et ne veut que le derober tout l'argent qu'il a economiser depuis la construction de sa banque.

Depuis la destruction du World Trade center, Olga Lambert, soeur adoptive du prince Franck Ekoue, n'arrete pas d'abuser du prince... Allant jusqu'a le mettre dehors de chez lui, avec la complicite de la police, sans, qu'aucune charge n'ai ete porter.. ni ordre provenant d'un juge.

Le Prince Franck Ekoue et son pere Toussaint ekoue, vivait a Lome, Togo...
A la Residence du Benin.
Avenue des flamboyants
Villa CB55.

Veillez agreer mes respects les plus distingues.

Le Prince Franck stephan Yves Kangni Ekoue Hagbonon

By Pavel Goberman ( - on Friday, December 23, 2005 - 11:55 pm: Edit Post

In government of the USA is an Ombudsman?
I dodn't think so because this system is so rotten: bribery, corruption and political prostitution in government of the USA.

Pavel Goberman - Candidate for US Repres., Oregon
"Stop Political Prostitution!"

By F. Vol ( - on Saturday, December 24, 2005 - 7:12 pm: Edit Post

This proposal was iced by the NPCA and others in the Senate and their staff. It is not the will of the people or the will of former volnteers to be denied. The Cutting of this proposal is a shame for the program.

Former Volunteer

By Anonymous ( on Saturday, July 29, 2006 - 5:54 pm: Edit Post

I realize the wheels of justice turn slowly but, in addition to being slow, are they also stupid?
Unarguably the P.C. should have an ombudsman. Their reluctance to do so leaves one with the strong impression that there is a fatal flaw in the existing system which they are unwilling to address.- Mother of current P.C.V. serving in South Africa

By Franck Thompson ( - on Saturday, September 16, 2006 - 9:38 pm: Edit Post


What about,the murder of my girlfriend at College Montmorency by some army man ???

What about the kidnapping of Tyra Banks by George Bush ???

People of my organisation get always kidnapped, deplaced if carrying legal assets and sometimes killed.

Always by George bush and his personal protection since the 1980!!!

I am legally,the owner of a bank of Montreal at Toronto, legally an USA senator, legally an commancelor of the World Trade Center.

I am the Prince Frank Melkior Thompson aka Franck Ekoue

Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.