about us


“OM’BUDS’MAN” = Charge, Commission, Task

How did the concept start?
Borrowing the idea from Turkey, the Swedish King appointed a high level official in 1712 to keep an eye on royal courtiers whilst he travelled – this evolved into the first fully independent modern Ombudsman in 1809. The idea has mushroomed in the last 30 years – today there are 112 national Ombudsmen throughout the world. In Bermuda, the office was established by the Constitution and is governed by the Ombudsman Act 2004. Our first Ombudsman was appointed August 1, 2005 by the Governor after consultation with the Premier who first consulted with the Opposition Leader.

How do Public Authorities respond?
Most Public Authorities appreciate that the Ombudsman helps to make public services more effective. She also protects public servants from frivolous complaints.

It is an offence to mislead, omit information or otherwise obstruct the Ombudsman’s inquiries.

The Bermuda Constitutional Order and the Ombudsman Act 2004 outlines are the legislative instruments that give effect to the Ombudsman’s powers. Below is a summary of the Ombudsman’s legislative powers with reference to these legislative authorities.

Bermuda Constitutional Order 1968 Chapter VI A, Section 93A of the Bermuda Constitution 1968 provides:

  • The Ombudsman is appointed by the Governor, after discussion with the Premier who will first consult with the Opposition Leader.
  • The Governor can remove the Ombudsman from office for inability to perform the functions of the office, misbehaviour, or engaging in any other unapproved job.   
  • In the duties of the Ombudsman’s job, the Ombudsman is not under the management or control of anyone or authority.

The Ombudsman Act 2004

     The Ombudsman may investigate the following:

  • managerial decisions, acts, recommendations;
  • failure to perform an act or make a decision or recommendation; and
  • failure to provide reasons for a decision or action. (Section 2)  

The Ombudsman determines if there is evidence of “maladministration” which includes (but is not limited to) actions that are: inefficient, inappropriate, improper, unreasonable delay, abuse of power (including discretionary), contrary to or mistake of facts, irrelevant grounds, unfair, oppressive, improperly discriminatory, unreasonable procedures, and negligent.  (Section 2)  

The Ombudsman reviews administrative actions of Government departments and boards, public Authorities and other bodies established by Parliament or a Minister or whose funding is received from money provided or authorized by Parliament. We refer to all bodies within the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction as “Authorities”. (Section 3)

The salary of the Ombudsman is charged to the Consolidated Fund. (Section 4)

The Ombudsman can investigate administrative action of an authority under two circumstances:

  1. further to a specific complaint; or
  2. on the Ombudsman’s own initiative – notwithstanding that no complaint has been made – where there are reasonable grounds to carry out an investigation in the public interest; and (Section 5)   

The Ombudsman may not investigate until the Complainant exercises any existing procedures. However, if the Ombudsman determines that it was not reasonable for the Complainant to have used such procedures she may pursue an investigation.

The Ombudsman cannot investigate those matters listed in the schedule of the Act, namely:

  • Administrative actions that may not investigated into by the Courts;
  • Actions taken by Cabinet, Ministers or Junior Ministers;
  • Pardon power by the Governor;
  • Action taken for investigation of crime or security of Bermuda;
  • Conduct of proceedings before a court of law or tribunal;
  • Human Resources and employment matters. (Section 6)

Complaints may be made orally (walk-ins or by appointment), email, or in writing within the last 12 months. (Section 7)
Prisoner officers are required to give prisoners a sealed envelope and other materials necessary to write to the Ombudsman. (Section 7)
The Ombudsman may ask informal questions of the Authority before an
investigation or mediation. (Section 8 & 10)    
The Ombudsman may decide not to investigate if:

  • the Complainant knew of the administrative action complained of    more than one year prior to the complaint; or
  • current law or administrative procedure provide a sufficient solution and there is no reasonable explanation for the Complainant not to have benefited himself/herself of the solution; or
  • the complaint is little weight, vexatious or not made in good faith or has been settled.(Section 9)    

After informing the Authority of her intent to investigate, the Ombudsman may obtain information from individuals in a manner as she considers appropriate, including inspecting premises, calling upon witnesses and examining them under oath. (Section 11-13)

All information given to the Ombudsman is confidential. It is not a violation of any agreement of secrecy to provide information to the Ombudsman. No one will be penalized or discriminated against in their job for complaining or giving information to the Ombudsman. (Section 14)

The Ombudsman investigates to determine if maladministration has happened. Once the investigation is complete the Ombudsman informs the Authority of her findings in writing. If the Ombudsman finds maladministration, she makes recommendations for improvements. (Section 15)

The Ombudsman makes recommendations as she sees fit including that an omission be corrected, decision be cancelled or altered, reasons be given, practice or course of conduct be altered and an order be reviewed. (Section 15)     

Within 20 days of receiving the Ombudsman’s recommendations, the Authority must notify her of action taken or proposed to give effect to the recommendations or reasons for the failure to implement them. She may submit a Special Report to Parliament if she deems the Authority’s response to her recommendations inadequate or inappropriate. (Section 16) 

The Ombudsman submits an Annual Report and any Special Report to the Speaker of the House of Parliament with a copy to the Governor and a copy to the President of the Senate. The Ombudsman may not make any hostile statements in reports without giving the Authority an opportunity to be heard. (Section 17 & 24)

The Ombudsman and staff must maintain secrecy and are exempted from giving evidence concerning complaints made to our Office in Court proceedings. (Section 20 & 21)      

Any obstruction of the Ombudsman in the performance of her duties commits the offence of Contempt of Court. Deliberately misleading or false statements to the Ombudsman or staff are offenses answerable in Magistrates’ Court. (Section 25 & 26) 

Dr. Nelson Mandela stated in 2000:
“It was to me never reason for irritation but rather a source of comfort when these bodies were asked to adjudicate on actions of my government and office and judged against it. One of the first judgments of our Constitutional Court, for example, found that I, as President, administratively acted in a manner they would not condone. From that judgment my government and I drew reassurance that the ordinary citizens of our country would be protected against abuse, no matter from which quarters it would emanate. Similarly, the Public Protector [Ombudsman] had on more than one occasion been required to adjudicate in such matters.”

Suite 102
14 Dundonald Street West
Hamilton, HM 09 Bermuda
Tel: (441) 296-6541
Fax: (441) 296-7734