A year of change: A credible and trusted institution closer to the people – Annual Report 2023 Presented to Parliament

The Parliamentary Ombudsman, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon, presented the Annual Report 2023 to the Speaker of the House, Anglu Farrugia, today.

Throughout 2023, the Office of the Ombudsman focused on enhancing its working relationship with the public administration. It adopted an open-door policy, reaching out to the public and government entities alike. In his foreword to the Annual Report, the Ombudsman stated, “I want to listen because only by listening can I act promptly and effectively. In 2023, the Office played its part in protecting the rights of people and promoting governance, accountability, and transparency in public administration.” This approach resulted in a 22% increase in the caseload of the Office of the Ombudsman compared to the previous year.

Reflecting on the results outlined in the report, Judge Zammit McKeon reaffirmed his commitment to resolving complaints related to maladministration by the government, as defined by the Ombudsman Act. “The Ombudsman ensures that the public administration conducts itself lawfully, makes decisions reasonably, and treats all persons equitably and fairly,” he stated. “I am reasonably certain that this role was adequately fulfilled in 2023.”

The Ombudsman emphasised that the Office has focused on resolving complaints and has also worked to improve public administration services through recommendations following investigations. “I believe there are professional and sensitive officials in the public service who strive to improve the workings of the government and the everyday lives of people who seek assistance from the public administration, the largest employer in this country.”

The Office of the Ombudsman made efforts to see tangible improvements in Government service practices. The Office has a duty to help when internal or external challenges that the country faces from time-to-time place pressure on people, especially the vulnerable.

The Annual Report outlines the work done by the institution during 2023 and highlights critical issues that the Office of the Ombudsman addressed:

  • Relations with Parliament and the need for Parliament to discuss the Ombudsman’s reports when the public administration does not implement recommendations.
  • The Right to Good Administration, founded on the need for public administration to operate with transparency, fairness, and accountability.
  • The Defence of Human Rights and the need for Malta to establish a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI).

Judge Zammit McKeon reiterated the credentials of the Office of the Ombudsman as a defender of human rights. “I state with conviction that people find comfort in the Office of the Ombudsman,” he said. “In 2023, I have done my very best to convince the Government that, in the interest of the common good, Malta should, without any further delay, establish a National Human Rights Institution. The Office of the Ombudsman has been advocating. It has proposed to the government that presents a practical, resource-efficient, and effective approach to strengthening the country’s commitment to human rights. The Ombudsman encourages the Government to move away from arguments favouring a status quo approach.”

The Annual Report 2023 also includes the Annual Reports of the three specialised Commissioners for Health, Education, and Environment and Planning. “Their dedication has been instrumental in achieving the results we are presenting today,” the Ombudsman noted.

The Annual Report 2023 can be downloaded from here

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