Oversight in local government in South Africa : a case study of the Ombudman's office for the City of Cape Town

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The municipal ombud is a relatively new concept in South Africa and only two municipal ombud offices currently operate within the country. While there is a growing body of literature on the organisational ombud, as well as established works on various classical ombud, the practice of 'ombudsing' within local government currently enjoys no consistent or comprehensive theoretical foundation, particularly in relation to the required structure or processes, institutional support systems, or legal frameworks for the effective or optimal operation of an institution of this nature. The ombud at the local level calls for a hybrid approach to the ombud practice, and further requires particular arrangements to ensure the independence and credibility of the institution. This paper explores some of these critical factors required for the effective operation of an ombud, such as its 'independence' and 'credibility'. Linked to these factors, are aspects relating to the ombud's 'accountability'. Whereas the office has to ensure organisational accountability to the public, it also has to report to the host organisation. The result is a form of dual accountability, which means that the office needs to optimise its credibility and legitimacy both in the public realm, and within the host organisation. This dissertation argues that while such paradoxes are not uncommon to oversight institutions, numerous problems arise as a result of the lack of a clear and coherent approach, and the lack of understanding of the basic requirements for the ombud's effective or optimal functioning.

Includes bibliographical references (pages 88-92).