The Ombudsman’s role in Guyana
Despite the presence of a functioning Office of the Ombudsman in Guyana, a significant portion of the population remains unaware of its role and responsibilities.
The Ombudsman’s office is an independent one that seeks to address injustices citizens may face as a result of administrative action or inaction. Citizens can seek remedies for injustices caused by government officers.
Located at 39 Brickdam, Stabroek, Georgetown, the office is intended to be independent of government agencies and officials, and parliament.
The Ombudsman is appointed by the Head of State with the consultation of the Leader of the Opposition, which follows Article 191 (1) of the Constitution of Guyana. The current Ombudsman is retired Justice Winston Patterson.
The Office of the Ombudsman was adopted from a Scandinavia classical model. Guyana was the first country in the region to establish such an office. It was established in 1967 to address administrative issues as well as serious social issues, such as racial and political discrimination among others.
Several countries in the Caribbean followed Guyana’s example and established similar offices. These countries are namely Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Belize, and St Lucia.
The role of the Ombudsman is advisory and investigative. The office enables good governance and promotes democracy. The subject matters to which the official has jurisdiction to investigate are laid out in the constitution under Article 192.
The Ombudsman’s services are cost effective and often there are no fees attached. Thus, the service caters to low-income families and individuals. In most countries throughout the Caribbean mostly low-income individuals seek the services of the Ombudsman.