The role of ombudsman institution in improving public service delivery

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In May 2015, I was a panel speaker at the 2nd World Bank – International Ombudsman Institute Roundtable on the role of ombudsman institutions (OIs) in promoting citizen-centric governance and inclusive institutions. This was a great opportunity to share the experience of my office, the Ombudsman Republic of Indonesia (ORI) in promoting greater government accountability and also learn from other countries’ experiences presented by the other panelists. 

The OIs come in various shapes and sizes, thus encompassing different roles depending upon their national mandates. While OIs are mostly known to deal with complaints regarding maladministration issues not addressed at the agency level, our panel discussed how OIs could contribute to service delivery improvements, while also promoting citizen engagement in demanding accountability.

As fellow Ombudsman Peter Tyndall from Ireland noted, OIs are capable of not only looking into individual complaints regarding poor service delivery often caused by one-off incidences, but also investigate and uncover roots of more systemic problems within public institutions. 

In Indonesia, the Public Services Act and the Local Government Act provide the Ombudsman an important role in overseeing service delivery standards. To address shortcomings in service delivery and engage citizens not only in filing complaints but also assisting in monitoring compliance with service delivery standards, ORI has implemented a few innovative programs: 

Our ‘Mystery shopper’ program, which is unannounced field visits undertaken to proactively investigate compliance of standards, enabled us to find out that in average, compliance of services standards in public institutions was roughly less than 30 percent. These mystery shopper teams, composed of our ORI office staff, were able to check behavior of public officials, and even uncover instances when they offered assistance in return for money.

The program was implemented in three big cities of Indonesia, namely Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya. Based on this finding, ORI provided recommendations to these institutions and implemented follow-up action plans to help improve the implementation of public services standards at national and sub national levels of government. 

To reach out to communities, especially those located in remote areas of the country, the ‘Friends of the Ombudsman’ program proved to be a very useful mechanism. The program engages local communities with ORI through undergraduate students and local NGOs who volunteer to help lodge complaints regarding public services in their communities.    
In addition to filing complaints, ORI is also encouraging individuals to contribute by participating in monitoring activities of public agencies compliance with service delivery standards through ASIK.

ASIK is the newest program which has been launched in 2015 by ORI to help promote public engagement. ASIK is a public measurement and reporting system based on the use of ICTs, such as smart phones and computers to upload pictures directly to the platform. It is designed to generate public participation by providing a user-friendly system to monitor the quality of services provided by public institutions and report on compliance indicators.

ASIK is able to collect and automatically generate vast amounts of useful data from citizens, so our ORI’s Research and Development team can then analyze and use it in order to advise follow-up actions such as issuing notifications to the chief authorities of institutions, designate a follow-up team to meet and discuss findings, and propose interventions to improve performance. 

In the case of Indonesia, the top institutions that received most complaints submitted to ORI in 2015 include local governments, police, state owned companies, and land agency. The main areas of complaints in the same year include land, employee affairs, police, education and transportation/infrastructure.

In my opinion, the Ombudsman Republic of Indonesia has been performing better in the last five years after relevant laws have been passed to increase the mandate and powers of ORI's authority to monitor public services quality in Indonesia. Despite the difficulties faced by OIs, I am confident that we are moving in the right direction.

Tweet this: #Ombudsmen investigate & uncover roots of systemic problems within public institutions. 

Tweet thisIn #Indonesia, the Ombudsman plays an important role in overseeing service delivery standards. 


Danang Girindrawardana

Chief Ombudsman of the Republic of Indonesia

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