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Ombudsman bemoans injustice, impunity

By Alusine Sesay

During a public education and sensitisation meeting with the Sierra Leone Police last Friday, Ombudsman Justice Edmond Cowan called on state institutions to eradicate or minimise impunity and injustice to avert anarchy in the polity.

Justice Cowan said the Office of the Ombudsman represents the conscience of the state and the voice of the voiceless and that the office complements the duties of state institutions, including the police, to ensure the eradication of maladministration in public offices.

“Let us work together and try to eradicate impunity and injustice in public offices. Some of the factors of the rebel war are the injustices we have and that must be stopped,” he said.

He said the office of the Ombudsman was established by the Government of Sierra Leone in 1997 and that “We are a complaint outfit where people forward complaint about any maladministration. People who come to our office are not happy with their condition at their work places.

He said the Office of the Ombudsman is not a court of law, but an institution that works to bring people together and settle issues amicably, albeit they have the power to subpoena document or an individual who fails to adhere to their recommendations in respect of their conflict resolution. role

“Our proceedings are very much informal. We bring two people together and proffer recommendation, but has power of the High Court and have right to  subpoena document or witness,” he said. “We can take an individual to court for obstruction.”

He said they do not follow the strict rules of evidence, but compel individuals or institutions to do what they want them to do, adding that they have taken up matters where the Police Council had failed to intervene.

Justice Cowan said the police and other state institutions are subject to the Office of the Ombudsman, and that although they do not interfere in the internal discipline of any state institution, yet correct maladministration in public offices.

“We are not your antagonist, but working in the interest of good administration. Bulk of our cases do not deal with internal discipline but we come in where you take decision and discard normal procedures,” he said.

He cited maladministration as bad management and described injustice as an inequitable treatment of people, adding that one of the greatest malaise in Sierra Leone is that public officials usually fail to reply to letters when complaints are made against them, and urged that the practice be discarded.

Deputy Inspector General of Police Richard Moigbe thanked the Ombudsman and his office for the sensitisation meeting, noting that the session provided a huge learning opportunity to the police.

“We are now in an informed position to know what to do and the public awareness–raising move is timely,” he said.