The Ombudsman ensures accountability no matter who holds the mayoral office. Picture: Matthews Baloyi
The Ombudsman ensures accountability no matter who holds the mayoral office. Picture: Matthews Baloyi

If the city fathers let you down, call the Ombud

By Lesego Makgatho Time of article published Oct 25, 2021

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The Office of the Johannesburg Ombudsman is within reach of residents of the city yet many do not know of its mandate.

With municipal elections looming, Advocate Siduduzo Gumede, who is the Ombudsman of the city, plays a role in ensuring that whatever party holds office, they are held accountable together with their employees and respective state-owned entities, to the very people they have been appointed to serve.

The Ombudsman ensures accountability no matter who holds the mayoral office. Picture: Matthews Baloyi

The office is filled with complaints of maladministration as well as human rights violations lodged against the City of Johannesburg’s administration.

Advocate Siduduzo Gumede’s office holds city entities accountable. Picture: Supplied

Citizens have a constitutional right to efficient service delivery and this also relates to billing complaints. Since the start of the national lockdown in March, the Ombudsman walk-in offices have been closed; however, the City would like to remind residents that queries and complaints can still be escalated telephonically or by email.

The purpose of the City of Johannesburg’s Office of the Ombudsman is to examine complaints from members of the public who feel that they have been treated unfairly by employees or departments of the City of Johannesburg and of municipal-owned entities.

The CoJ Ombudsman, which first opened its doors in July 2015, deals with service delivery complaints related to all municipal entities within the City of Johannesburg.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Advocate Gumede said it is important to note that the Office of the Ombudsman should be consulted as the last resort.

“It is an office of last instance. You cannot ordinarily have a problem with the city, whether it’s water or electricity or whatever service the municipality renders that you might have a problem with... you cannot automatically come to the office of the ombudsman. Go to your local offices and say, ‘I have a problem and I need this investigated. What is happening?’ Only if they don’t assist you, can you escalate the matter,” he said.

Gumede, who’s been in office for five months since his return after he left in 2017, said they are now dealing with issues of non-billing, where the commitment to service delivery is not being met by entities of the city.

“We are only now dealing with non-billing issues. We are going to negotiate what we call a memorandum of agreement between various departments of the city and with each municipal entity.

“In relation to service delivery and other things, we take all those commitments they have made to residents when residents have brought these matters to them and hold these entities accountable. This is how we hold the administration to account.”

These entities will then have to give a plan to the ombudsman in writing on the way forward on a particular issue.

“We then take these issues up with the executive mayor but taking it up with the mayor, you have many voices that are talking about it in the city and prompting for it to be addressed,” he added.

The office is currently rolling out a plan to bring themselves closer and make themselves more available to various communities by placing a ‘complaints box’ in each ward where residents can place complaints in writing citing whatever issues are facing in the ward. They then take the complaints at the end of a certain period to resolve the matter with the relevant entity of the city.

“The roll-out is still in its early stages where our strategy is to be more visible to the people of the city and for them to trust that their issues will be given the necessary attention when they are raised,” he said.

The Office of the Ombudsman is open from 8 am to 4.30 pm from Monday to Friday, and is closed on weekends and public holidays.

Residents can escalate complaints using the following channels:

Email: [email protected]

Helpdesk: (011) 288 2802

WhatsApp Line: 081 365 0225

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