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Federal Complaint-Handling, Ombudsman, and Advocacy Offices
Wendy R. Ginsburg (au); Frederick M. Kaiser (au)
Federal complaint-handling, ombudsman, and advocacy offices have different forms, capacities, and designations. This report, which reviews the state of research in this field and the heritage of such offices, examines and compares them, along with recent legislative developments and past proposals to establish a government-wide ombudsman. The report identifies the basic characteristics of these offices, recognizing differences among them with regard to their powers, duties, jurisdictions, locations, and resources, as well as control over them. It covers only ombudsman-like offices at the federal level that deal with the public, sometimes known as “external ombudsmen.” It does not cover “internal ombudsmen,” that is, offices created to handle complaints from employees and resolve disputes between them and management; ombudsmanlike offices in the private sector; or similar entities at other levels of government in the U.S. or abroad, except to note differences among them. This report consists of three parts: (1) an analysis of the ombudsman concept and a brief look at which countries around the world have used ombudsmen; (2) a breakdown of the various ways in which federal complaint-handling offices differ; and (3) an identification and description of selected ombudsman-like offices, including specifics on their origins and operations.`
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