The Functioning of Ombudsman (Public Protector) in South Africa: Redress and Checks and Balances?



The fi rst South African Ombudsman appointed in 1979 in terms of the Advocate-General Act 118 of 1979, as amended by Advocate-General Amendment Act 55 of 1983, was known as the Advocate-General. The need for this of fi ce was apparent after the facts about the Information Scandal had come to light. The of fi ce of the Advocate-General could be compared to that of the Special Prosecutor of the United States, which was also instituted in similar fashion in the wake of the Watergate scandal. The primary reason for the creation of the of fi ce of the Advocate-General was to maintain honest public administration and orderly government. This of fi ce was replaced by the Ombudsman in 1983 after amending the Advocate General Act by the Ombudsman Act of 1983. Then in 1994 the Constitution Act 108 of 1996 repealed the Interim Constitution Act 200 of 1993 and paved the way for the promulgation of the Public Protector Act 23 of 1994 which made provision for the establishment of the of fi ce and the governing principles of the Public Protector. In view of the above brief explanation, this article seeks to unravel evolution of the Ombudsman in South Africa, the challenges affecting the functioning of the Public Protector including the “independence” of the of fi ce as well as the duplication of functions with other agencies. One case study will be used, namely, the controversial “Arms Deal Joint Investigation” as well a comparative study will be done with the Parliamentary Ombudsman of Sweden.

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