Mixed views on need for ombudsman

2016-02-05 11:11
Bill Lambert

Bill Lambert (File)

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Pietermaritzburg - The city’s executive committee councillors were split on Thursday on whether the municipality needed an Office of City Ombudsman.

DA councillor Bill Lambert said that establishing such an office in the Msunduzi Municipality was a “wonderful idea”, especially since Pietermaritzburg was a capital city. However, other councillors, including Eunice Majola and Jabu Ngubo, both of the ANC, said they did not feel the city was ready “at this stage” for such an office to be established.

The Office of the Ombudsman is an independent, impartial, non-prejudicial and apolitical office that has the authority to investigate and facilitate resolutions to public complaints, and gain access to any book, record or file at the municipality.

The office would not replace the municipality’s functions, but would serve as the last resort once all other avenues had been exhausted.

Currently the Cape Town, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and eThekwini municipalities have established such offices in their cities.

Although Lambert strongly supported the establishment of an ombudsman’s office, he questioned the cost factors that would be involved.

However, Ngubo responded that no cost factors would be included at this stage as the city was “not ready for such an office”.

“We are well on our feet. Although we have R1 billion in our reserves, we need to consider that we still have contract workers to absorb. We need to see where that takes us [financially], then see if we have enough for an office of the ombudsman,” she said.

Fellow councillor Majola agreed with Ngubo, saying that she did not dispute the importance of an Office of the Ombudsman, “but we are not ready”.

Initially the recommendation to council was to have the Office of the Ombudsman established in phases at a smaller scale with effect from July 1, 2017. However, after the discussion it was resolved that no date would be recommended at this stage.

• kailene.pillay@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ombudsman

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