Why the Ombudsman Does Not Promote Public Trust in Government: Lessons from the Low Countries

30 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2012 Last revised: 30 Jul 2013

See all articles by Marc Hertogh

Marc Hertogh

University of Groningen - Faculty of Law

Date Written: November 2012

Abstract

Most public sector ombudsmen claim that their work will strengthen or restore citizen’s confidence in government. However, empirical research provides little support for this assumption. Based on studies from Belgium and the Netherlands, this article offers two explanations for this limited effect. First, it will be argued that (Dutch) administrative law is based on three ‘mythical images’ of the average complainant. Because these images do not correspond with reality, many people feel alienated from the ombudsman. Second, although the ombudsman aims to reach all types of citizens, most complainants are highly educated, white-collared, politically interested men. Yet the ombudsman is less successful in reaching people who are critical about politics and the justice system. Building on these findings from the Low Countries, the article ends with several suggestions which may help increase the potential of the ombudsman in all countries to promote public trust in government.

Keywords: public trust, ombudsman, administrative justice

JEL Classification: K10, K23

Suggested Citation

Hertogh, Marc, Why the Ombudsman Does Not Promote Public Trust in Government: Lessons from the Low Countries (November 2012). Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, Vol. 35, No. 2, 2013, Forthcoming; University of Groningen Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 03/2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2182596

Marc Hertogh (Contact Author)

University of Groningen - Faculty of Law ( email )

9700 AS Groningen
Netherlands

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