| The expansion of State bureaucracy, especially in modern
welfare states where government involvement in the daily life
of the individual is great, and there is a growing need of citizens
to have recourse to the administration in order to receive a
wide range of services, have created many points of friction
between government authorities and the citizen. This situation
brought about the need for the establishment of an objective
institution which could aid the individual citizen in finding
his way through the bureaucratic maze and protect him from injurious
acts of government authorities. Thus, in 1971 the Knesset decided
to establish the Office of the Ombudsman and empowered the State
Comptroller with the additional function of Ombudsman.
The organizational structure of the Office of Ombudsman: The
Ombudsman's Office consists of eight departments, which examine
complaints against government offices, state institutions, local
governments, and certain other bodies refered to by the State
The Ombudsman carries out his functions with the assistance
of a special unit in the State Comptroller's Office. In this
capacity, the Ombudsman serves as an address to any person who
wishes to submit a complaint against a state or public body
subject to state audit. The State Comptroller concentrates on
the audit of systems in general, while as Ombudsman he deals
with the investigation of complaints of the individual citizen.
The merging of the two functions of Comptroller and Ombudsman
is advantageous: A number of complaints (at times even a single
one) can indicate a systemic defect in the operation of the
administration and even systematic violations of the law. Such
complaints aid the Comptroller in identifying suitable areas
for comprehensive audit, while the extensive experience of audit
staff and their wide range of knowledge regarding the audited
bodies, can aid in finding proper solutions to the problems
of the individual citizen facing the bureaucracy.
Any person may submit a complaint to the Ombudsman. The complaint
must be signed by the complainant, indicating his name and address.
Complaints may also be submitted orally at any one of the municipal
offices of the Ombudsman, which are located in Jerusalem, Tel
Aviv, Haifa, Be'er Sheva and Nazareth. The subject of a complaint
must be an act that is directly injurious to or directly withholds
a benefit from the complainant. This rule does not apply to
a Member of Knesset, since as a duly elected representative
of the public, he may submit a complaint to the Ombudsman when
the matter concerns an act directly injurious to another person
or directly denies him a benefit.
The subject matter of complaints that can be submitted cover
a broad range of areas. A complaint can be submitted concerning
any action taken contrary to law, without lawful authority,
contrary to sound administration or that involves too inflexible
an attitude or a flagrant injustice. An "action" can be also
be defined, for the purposes of submitting a complaint, as an
omission or a delay in acting. According to the Law, complaints
may be submitted only against the bodies subject to the audit
of the State Comptroller, and as mentioned, there is a wide
range of such bodies. The Law also indicates complaints that
are not to be investigated, for example, complaints against
the President of the State, the Knesset or the Government. Also
not investigated are complaints on matters pending in the courts,
or in which a court has given a decision with regard to their
substance. A complaint against a judicial act of a court or
a judge will also not be investigated. In addition, complaints
relating to service arrangements and terms of service or discipline
of military personnel on active service or in the reserves,
police and prison officers, will not be investigated. The Ombudsman
will also not investigate a complaint submitted after a year
has elapsed from the date of the act to which it relates, unless
he finds a special reason justifying the investigation.
The Ombudsman may investigate a complaint in any manner he thinks
appropriate and is not bound by rules of procedure or rules
of evidence. The method of investigation is "inquisitorial"
- initiated by the Ombudsman - in contrast to the "adversarial"
method of the judicial system, according to which the litigants
submit their evidence and present their claims before the court.
The Ombudsman must bring the complaint to the knowledge of the
person or body complained against and must give them suitable
opportunity to respond. For the purposes of the investigation,
he may require any person or body to give him any information
or documents which, in his opinion, are likely to assist in
the investigation of the complaint.
Upon the completion of the investigation, the Ombudsman will
inform the complainant and the person or body complained against,
stating his reasons for finding the complaint justified or for
discontinuing the investigation; he may also point out the need
to correct a deficiency revealed by the investigation and how
and by what date it is to be rectified.
The decisions and findings of the Ombudsman concerning any given
complaint do not grant to the complainant or any other person
any right or relief in any court which they did not previously
have, and do not prevent them from exercising any right or applying
for any relief to which they are entitled. It is also not possible
to appeal to any court or petition the High Court of Justice
for relief against the decisions or findings of the Ombudsman
in the matter of a complaint.
In 1991, the Ombudsman was granted the authority to protect
an employee who submits a complaint that he had in good faith
disclosed acts of corruption committed by an audited body in
which he was employed, and as a result was being harassed or
was dismissed from his post. The Ombudsman has the authority
to make any order he deems right and just to protect the rights
of the employee, and may order the revocation of the dismissal
or the award of special compensation to the employee in money
or in rights.
In 1990, the legislature had extended the authority of the Ombudsman
and widened the circle of employees who are deserving of protection
against removal from their posts for no wrongdoing of their
own. An amendment to the State Comptroller Law grants an internal
auditor special protection from his employer who has dismissed
him from his post in reaction to his activities, similar to
the protection granted to those exposing corruption. In both
cases, the decisions of the Ombudsman have binding force.
In the past several years, approximately 6000-7000 complaints
have been submitted annually to the Ombudsman. In more than
half the cases, the investigations are completed with a decision
on the matter at issue, and about 35% of the complaints are
found to be justified.