Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon, the Maltese Ombudsman, addressed the Plenary Session of a conference organised by the Ombudsman Institution in Kosovo and the Association of Mediterranean Ombudsman (AOM). The conference, titled ‘Integrity and Independence of Ombudsman Institutions: Resilience amidst Challenges,’ offered a timely discussion on the state and future of Ombudsman institutions.
During the session themed ‘The Ombudsman Institution: Under Threat, Challenges and Opportunities,’ Judge Zammit McKeon discussed pressing challenges that impact the effectiveness of Ombudsman institutions. He highlighted the relationship with Parliament, asserting that the lack of substantial debate or action on the Ombudsman’s reports often hampers their effectiveness. The Ombudsman suggested that Parliament could establish a procedure for reports to be referred to the appropriate Standing Committees for timely action.
Another highlighted issue was the challenges posed by uncooperative government departments that impede access to information necessary for investigations. Judge McKeon underscored the need for stronger mechanisms to compel cooperation from public authorities.
Judge Zammit McKeon also pointed to the opportunities ahead. He emphasised the value of enhanced collaboration with fellow ombudsmen, NGOs, and international bodies and the advocacy role the Ombudsman can play to improve policies and practices.
The Ombudsman concluded by emphasising the importance of the Ombudsman’s independence and the necessity for increased public awareness of its role. He urged that the power of the Ombudsman’s recommendations should stem from the institution’s quality arguments, earned respect, and the moral authority it wields.