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New Ombudsman Sweeps Clean

New Ombudsman Sweeps Clean

There is the saying that new broom sweeps clean, that is, a person in new position is inclined to make reforms.

Now that Sierra Leone’s new Ombudsman, Melron Nicol-Wilson, has embarked on a series of reforms to give his office a befitting status, he can rightly be described as a new broom sweeping clean.

Our new Ombudsman is sweeping clean via his 100-day action plan which he unveiled last Friday in a press briefing held at the national headquarters of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalist (SLAJ) along Campbell Street, in Freetown.

The theme of his action plan is “Enacting POWER of Enforcement; EMPOWER the Ombudsman to DELIVER Administrative Justice and Safeguard Human Rights”.

Mr. Nicol-Wilson’s action plan is the outcome of a nationwide consultation and institutional assessment he conducted in Freetown and the regional offices in Bo, Kenema and Makeni.

While addressing Journalists, the new Ombudsman catalogued the numerous problems he inherited.

He said he took over an office that does not benefit the status of an Ombudsman as it is not spacious, poorly ventilated with an acute shortage of staff and logistics, apart from the fact that the office lacks power of enforcement.

He continued that he met only two investigators in the office, a situation that has been causing accumulation of cases, citing that he inherited 300 backlog cases.

The whole office, he went on, has only 35 members of staff nation-wide and only five vehicles, a situation that has been hindering the effective work of the office.

The Ombudsman noted that he detected the above problems after his institutional assessment but that his 100-day action plan seeks to address the problems and put the office on the right footing.  He said he would do so using his Power Project, Empower Project and Deliver Project.

He informed the press that, through his power project, he will consult with a group of legal experts and stakeholders to review the Ombudsman Act, 1997 with a view to enact enforcement powers for the office and will develop a five -year strategic plan designed to enhance public confidence, accountability, fairness and a new direction.

With his Empower Project, he furthered, he will relocate his head office to a more conducive environment fit for the purpose, and provide support for the regional offices and will design a new organogram for the office and develop terms of reference for units and staff so as to develop the institution.

He added that, his Empower Project will focus on commencing quarterly newsletter, improving website design and developing other relevant information and communication technologies to enhance his work.  The website, he said, will help citizens to be making complaints on-line.

Nicol-Wilson further told news men that his Deliver Project seeks to deliver President Koroma’s instruction to him to “deal with cases speedily, with the highest level of professionalism and integrity”.

He stated that he will use his Deliver Project to immediately recruit additional staff including programme, mediation and legal experts to deal with cases speedily, with the highest level of integrity and professionalism.

The new Ombudsman continued that his Deliver Project will support Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to create effective internal grievance mechanisms in order to reduce the number of reported complaints to his office.

He further disclosed that his Deliver Project will also focus on developing and signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with line institutions such as Legal Aid Board, Anti-Corruption Commission, the Ministry of Labor, Human Rights Commission and the Judiciary amongst others to ensure an effective case management and referral system.

Asked whether his is sure of getting the required resources to actualize his 100- day action plan, the Ombudsman replied that he is very sure of government’s financial support but noted that he has written projects for donor agencies to give their own support to the office.

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