Public Complaints Commission (Ombudsman): Definition & Functions
The public complaints commission or the ombudsman is the institution established by the federal government to entertain from citizens, complaints of injustice, corruption, unfair treatment and abuse of office by public officers.
The commission is to investigate such cases and to recommend steps towards discipline or correction of the situation.
The Public Complaints Commission is seen as the machinery that controls administrative excesses, especially in situations whereby the law is abused or not adhered to. This organ ensures that aggrieved citizens in Nigeria get administrative justice be it from bureaucratic errors, omission or abuse by officials of government, or even a limited liability companies in Nigeria.
The main function of the Public Complaints Commission is to ensure that impartial investigation is provided on behalf of the complainants who feel aggrieved by the action or inaction of the government or local government or private companies.
FUNCTIONS OF THE PUBLIC COMPLAINTS COMMISSION IN NIGERIA
The commission is empowered to:
- Entertain grievances and complaints of citizens against public servants.
- Investigate such cases of corruption, bribery and nepotism or favoritism against public servants.
- Also investigate cases of incompetence, use of false documents and inconsistency in the application of civil service rules by civil servants.
- Investigate loss of documents and vital papers in the civil service and government owned corporations.
- See to the arrest and prosecution of public officers who infringe upon the laws of the country.
- Suggest some changes in the laws of the country, so as to improve the efficiency of the public service.
- Help redress the abuses suffered by the citizens i the hands of public servants.
LIMITATIONS OF THE POWERS OF THE PUBLIC COMPLAINTS COMMISSION
- The commission cannot enforce its decisions and recommendations. These are left to the government to decide upon.
- The commission could not reverse or probe the decisions or actions of the courts, the president, governors, ministers, commissioners, judges or such other government officials in top, sensitive political positions.
- The emphasis on state security and national interest limits the access of the ombudsman to vital records, information and documents.
DEPARTMENTS OF THE PCC
The Commissions investigation department is divided across 4 sections, with each handling a specific area. These are:
- Private sector
- Public sector
- Community Relations
- Banking and financial institutions.
IS THE PUBLIC COMPLAINTS COMMISSION IN NIGERIA INDEPENDENT?
Yes, the Commission is independent of government bureaucracy and at the same time has extensive powers regarding confidentiality and access to all government information including the production of documents which can aid the Commission’s investigation.
By law, the Commission is empowered to enforce compliance in order to obtain the necessary information. This power is vital to the Commission in facilitating impartial investigation in order to arrive at a fair and equitable decision. Investigation of all complaints are provided at no cost to both the complainant and respondent i.e. citizen and non citizen resident in the country and their complaints are treated with the confidentiality they deserve. The commission has enabled it’s staff to handle all complaints speedily.
The Public Complaints Commission is independent of government interference in its mandate, operations, structure, function, and appearance. However, it reports to the National Assembly for budgetary and administrative purposes only but has access to senior administrators to convey perceived issues and trends within the government. The Commission presents its score card through anonymous aggregate statistical data in its Annual Reports.
The Commission holds all communications with those seeking assistance in the strictest confidence allowed by law. The identity of Complainants and the substance of concerns raised are not shared without consent. The only exception to maintaining confidentiality occurs in cases where there appears to be imminent risk of serious harm or a threat or possibility of harm.
The Commission does not participate in any formal judicial or administrative procedure or investigations, issue findings, or make or overturn administrative decisions.
The Commission considers the interests of all parties involved in a complaint impartially to assist them in reaching mutually acceptable agreements that are fair, equitable, and consistent with the social justice. The Commission does not serve as an advocate for either the Complainant or the Respondent.