25th July 2017
New Ombudsman’s 100-Day Vital Action to Deliver Justice in Sierra Leone
By the Ranger (07/06/17)
Sierra Leone’s newly appointed Ombudsman has unveiled his 100 day plan of action aimed at delivering administrative justice to the nation.
This ceremony was held on Friday May 26th at the head quarter office of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists at Campbell Street in Freetown. The choice of this venue could not have been an accident but rather an indication that the new Ombudsman Melron Nicol-Wilson sees the press as key ally in the discharge of his duties. (Pictured: Ombudsman Melron Nicol-Wilson taking oath at State House).
Speaking at the opening of the ceremony, SLAJ’s President Kelvin Lewis expressed appreciation for this honour, noting that the Ombudsman is the defender/advocate of the public and the “voice of the voiceless”. He also informed lawyer Nicol-Wilson that the nation is counting on him for the promotion of their rights and good governance in Sierra Leone.
Similar sentiment was made by Dr. Sheku Conteh the Executive Secretary of the office of the Ombudsman, who introduced him. Delivering his address and unveiling his 100 day plan for the achievement of ‘Administrative Justice’ and the development of a strategic plan to guide the office for the next 5 years, Melron Nicol-Wilson disclosed that upon assuming office he conducted an institutional assessment of his new office.
Mr. Melron-Wilson said he looked at the strength of the staff, case load, logistics and housing of the office. This exercise revealed several challenges and below are something of the discoveries:
a) The location of the office and its space was not fit for the purpose for which it was set up; b) There was inadequate staffing - there were only 3 investigators to deal with over 300 cases now pending; c) The vehicles are not enough to do the job.
This discovery prompted him to sign a social contract with the people of Sierra Leone with the introduction of a 100 day plan of action. This plan will include 3 projects which he has classed in the following manner; Power, Empower and Deliver.
Power:- At present the Ombudsman’s office does not have prosecutorial powers. It can only make recommendations which may be adhered to or neglected. Thus he will advocate for prosecutorial powers (enforcement powers). In this regard he is going to call for a review of the 1997 Act.
Empower:- To empower the office to deliver its mandate, there is the need to relocate the office to a more conducive environment fit for the purpose, and provide support to the regional offices. The office needs to be organised into units where every person will have their job description and will recruit more staff to beef up the team in the office and make it effective. He proposes to increase the staff strength of 35 now, to that of 75. A website will be developed for people to access and know what the office is doing and can access it through the web.
Deliver:- This recruitment of more staff will include experts to deal with cases with the ‘highest level of professionalism and integrity’. He will engage with MDAs to set up internal grievance mechanism to address complaints and reduce the amount of cases coming to the Ombudsman’s office. He also recognised that many matters do not fall in the purview of his office, thus he will develop and sign MOUs with line Institutions such as Legal Aid Board, Anti-Corruption Commission, Ministry of Labour, Human Rights Commission, the Judiciary etc. to ensure an effective referral system and speedy resolution of matters.
Melron Nicol-Wilson expressed appreciation to President Ernest Koroma for appointing him to such a high office and to the members of Parliament for their support and the press which he called on to be partners.
This 100 day plan by the Ombudsman is expected to improve the situation currently being faced by the office and will fulfil the president’s dream to address cases in his office ‘speedily with the highest level of professionalism and integrity’ thereby promoting good governance in Sierra Leone.