Research Handbook on the Ombudsman
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Research Handbook on the Ombudsman

Edited by Marc Hertogh and Richard Kirkham

The public sector ombudsman has become one of the most important administrative justice institutions in many countries around the world. This international and interdisciplinary Research Handbook brings together leading scholars and practitioners to discuss the state-of-the-art of ombudsman research. It uses new empirical studies and competing theoretical explanations to critically examine important aspects of the ombudsman’s work. This comprehensive Handbook is of value to academics designing future ombudsman studies and practitioners and policymakers in understanding the future challenges of the ombudsman.
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Chapter 20: Effectiveness and independence of the ombudsman’s own-motion investigations: a practitioner’s perspective from the Netherlands

Maaike de Langen, Emily Govers and Reinier van Zutphen


In addition to handling complaints, public sector ombudsman institutions typically have the power to conduct own initiative or own motion investigations. With the wide range of possible topics, the freedom to choose methods and approaches and the varying political settings in which these investigations take place, ombudsman search for the most effective way to use this power. Since there is no straightforward recipe for effectiveness, this chapter aims to capture practitioner experiences in the Netherlands, in order to come to a better understanding of how to be effective. It describes what investigations have come to look like over the past decade, using examples from two recent cases. The chapter also considers effectiveness from a more theoretical standpoint and discusses problems of causality, attribution and the difficulty of evaluation. It then looks at the effectiveness of own motion investigations more broadly and distinguishes direct and indirect effects. Finally it highlights other strategic considerations for the ombudsman, possible tensions between effectiveness and (perceived) independence of the institute and the ombudsman as a way of organizing mistrust, using Rosanvallon’s notion of counterdemocracy.

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