The office of the provincial ombudsman will take a suo motu (cognizance) in cases where a complainant, wanting to remain anonymous, can provide substantiating evidence to back the plaint.
Talking to The Express Tribune Provincial Ombudsman Major (retd) Azam Suleman said the ombudsman office was in place to provide affordable and quick justice to the people in Punjab in matters mainly about infringement of rights, corrupt practices and abuse of authority.
He said people can lodge their complaint with our office without any charge or the need to hire the services of a lawyer and can get relief, as per law, in 35 days.
In cases where a complainant fears filing a complaint, he/she can provide evidence to the ombudsman’s office and the action will be taken.
He said the most number of complaints that his office received was against police, solid waste management, local government and community development and revenue, amongst others.
The ombudsman added that complaints against police are mainly about poor investigation, biased investigation, abuse of power, etc.
“In revenue cases, people move to our office mostly against encroachments upon their or government land. We also get several complaints regarding heaps of garbage left unattended for days by solid waste management, for overbilling, for meter issues and for dilapidated road conditions,” he elaborated the nature of complaints people bring to the ombudsman’s office.
“Individuals also move against properties not being constructed according to bylaws", he said.
Total 11,612 complaints were received by the ombudsman’s office in 2021 while 6,967 have been disposed of after investigation.
As many as 3,515 complaints were received against police during the current year. The number of complaints against the revenue department is 3,453 and 357 complaints were received against the education department.
He pointed out that the government servants also seek help from the ombudsman’s office for their specific complaints.
“We have brought the complaint redressal time to 35 days of general complaints from three months and where financial matters are involved we have allocated 45 days,” he said, adding the government departments are quick to address complaints that are under inquiry with the department.
He said his office does not refrain from moving against delinquent officers. There have been instances when government servants were suspended, their promotions stopped, and even demoted.
He stated that in revenue-related matters, which are complex in nature, we ask the officers representing the department to take minimum time for the resolution of the complaint.
Ombudsman Suleman maintained that they have set up a helpline 1050, which operates around the clock for the benefit of the masses. He said 90% of the complaints filed in 2020 with the office were resolved.
He said his office can proceed against all provincial departments on account of maladministration and take up cases where the rights of individuals were being infringed. He said that his office can however not take up cases that are of national security or are sub-judice.
According to article 9(1) of The Punjab Office of The Ombudsman Act 2017, The Ombudsman may on a complaint by any aggrieved person, on a reference by the government or the Provincial Assembly, or a motion of the Supreme Court or the High Court made during any proceedings before it or of his motion, undertake any investigation into any allegation of maladministration on the part of any Agency or any of its officers or employees.
This section allows the ombudsman to initiate an inquiry into any matter of his own accord. It is pertinent to mention here that article 10 of the aforementioned act prohibits the said office from entertaining any anonymous complaints.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2021.
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