Attributes and Traits of Ombuds

Probably the most important attribute of the office/position of ombudsman is that of objectivity. This implies and includes:

  • the exercise of discretion and confidentiality
  • the ability to provide objective leadership
  • accessibility
  • an absence of any conflicts of interest
  • a perseverance to cut through “red tape” and follow through with complaints without getting “stonewalled”
  • an ability to dissect fact from hyperbole and get to the bottom line
  • an ability to mobilize political power, even if acting “behind the scenes”

Additionally, ombuds should have:

  • sufficient statutory authority to carry out investigations and mandate improvement
  • ready access to documents, records, witnesses, and subpoena power
  • full independence from the agency in which the ombudsman operates
  • no interference by officials or administrators of the agency or service provider that is the subject of a complaint
  • assurance that the complaining party will suffer no retaliation
  • good-faith immunity from civil liability for investigations, recommendations, and mandates
  • sufficient funding and resources
  • qualified staff, including legal experts to investigate and substantiate violations and subject matter experts.

Inside Attributes and Traits of Ombuds