Sunday, 5 April 2009

Philippine Ombudsman a success story

Manila Times
http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2009/april/05/yehey/top_stories/20090405top4.html

IN late 2007, a private lending company filed a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against 50 government employees, including school teachers, the police and fire department officers.

The company sought to collect outstanding amounts on these employees’ delinquent personal loans.

The Office of the Ombudsman decided to recommend the case for mediation, an option that was not available prior to June 2007.

This new alternative dispute resolution program was developed thanks to the Millennium Challenge Corp.’s (MCC) Philippines Threshold Program, which has been working since 2006 to help improve revenue administration and anti-corruption efforts in the country.

This decision saved the Office of the Ombudsman considerable time and resources.

Through mediation, both parties had an opportunity to present their points of view. As a result of mediation, the lending company agreed to restructure the employees’ payment schedules. This outcome benefited all parties involved.

The employees and the company were able to reach an agreement, and the Ombudsman had 50 fewer complaints, thereby reducing the number of pending cases and shifting more resources from administrative cases toward the fight against corruption.

The mediation program was developed in conjunction with the Asia Foundation and in close collaboration with the Office of the Ombudsman to determine appropriate dispute resolution approaches and training needs. Staff was carefully selected for mediation training that included a five-day course and 40 hours of mediation practice.

The process finalized with a review of policies and procedures as well as the drafting of an Ombudsman Rules of Procedure for Mediation.

At its inception, the MCC program’s goal was to increase the number of cases successfully mediated in the Ombudsman’s Public Assistance Office from zero to 300 a year. Current results exceed those expectations.

The Office of the Ombudsman expects to settle through mediation at least half of the 10,000 cases it receives each year. This system will allow the reduction of its backlog of unresolved cases and face the rapid annual increase in the number of cases filed.

By strengthening the Office of the Ombudsman, the MCC is helping the Philippines reduce corruption and better position itself to start investing in poverty reduction programs.

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