The status and responsibilities of the National Ombudsman are established by the Dutch Constitution (Article 78a). As an institution, the National Ombudsman is one of the five ‘High Councils of State’ (the others being the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Council of State and the Court of Audit). An Act of Parliament (Wet Nationale ombudsman) was passed in 1981 to define the tasks and authority of the ombudsman.
In essence, the National Ombudsman is empowered to scrutinize the manner in which public sector authorities fulfil their statutory responsibilities. An investigation may be instigated at the Ombudsman’s own initiative or further to a complaint from a member of the public. The National Ombudsman is impartial and independent. He is appointed by the House of Representatives for a period of six years.
The National Ombudsman is concerned with virtually every area of public administration, from government ministries and their executive agencies (such as the Tax and Customs Administration), to the bodies which administer social benefits, the police, water boards, provinces and municipalities. Since 10 October 2010, the National Ombudsman also handles complaints relating to administrative agencies on the islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, which are now ‘special municipalities’ of the Netherlands in the Caribbean.
Mission and strategy
The mission of the National Ombudsman is to safeguard the rights of the citizen in all dealings with administrative authorities. The Ombudsman will attempt to help citizens by investigating their complaints. He will advise where appropriate and can refer cases to the relevant public administration. He is alert to potential conflicts and will propose solutions intended to improve relations between the parties. The National Ombudsman helps governmental authorities to improve their own processes and procedures based on the findings of his investigations and published reports.
The strategy of the National Ombudsman is based on four core values:
- Alertness: the National Ombudsman is a modern, alert organization with a professional staff who know what citizens may expect from the government. The Ombudsman encourages public sector authorities to respect the rights of the citizen and to improve their own procedures and processes accordingly.
- Engagement: the National Ombudsman takes a proactive approach to contact with the general public. All complaints receive careful attention and are treated with respect.
- Creativity: the National Ombudsman encourages open discussion of any problems, providing encouragement and assistance to government authorities as they seek creative solutions or improvements.
- Accessibility: the National Ombudsman is accessible to all. Communication with the public is straightforward and relies on various channels, including social media.
The way we work
We have summed up information about how we work on this page.
In 2017, at the National Ombudsman's request, an external company, Van de Bunt, carried out a study into the effectiveness of own initiative investigations by the National ombudsman.