Provision of free and expeditious relief against any injustice done to a common man through maladministration is the hallmark of the Wafaqi Mohtasib’s performance.
It has over the years almost perfected its complaint handling mechanism and taken many steps to enhance its outreach to the general public and dispensing justice closer to their homes.
It is truly a poor man’s court as the complainants are not required to hire the services of lawyers or wait endlessly for conclusion of the litigation process.
A series of reports that one comes across frequently highlighting redressal of grievances following the intervention of the Wafaqi Mohtasib such as: the payment of compensation amount of Rs 800 million to the affectees of Basima-Hoshab road, refund of Rs 70,000/- excess charged in electricity bill to a resident of Gujranwala, directing NBP to pay savings of an old school teacher amounting to Rs 3 million, directing AGPR to pay Rs 9.4 million of pensionary entitlements to a teacher after 9 years of his retirement, reinforce the public trust in the efficiency and efficacy of this institution.
Ombudsmanship has taken firm roots in Pakistan. The year 2023 marks the successful completion of 40 years of service by the Wafaqi Mohtasib institution since its inception on 24 January 1983. More than 1.9 million households have benefitted from its services over the years. It was able to process the record number of complaints during the year 2022.
The receipts rose from 110,405 to the highest ever number of 164,174 (49% increase) and disposal of cases reached an all-time high of 157,770, marking an increase of 47.7% over the figures of the year 2021.
During the first six months of the current year (January – June 2023), receipt of complaints crossed 90,660 while disposal of cases, including the backlog, has touched the figure of 92,387.
Complaints worth over Rs 3.2 billion were addressed in 2022. During the first six months of the current year (1st January – 30 June), complaints worth Rs.1.55 billion have already been addressed.
Implementation of the decisions, orders, recommendations and findings of Wafaqi Mohtasib has always remained in sharp focus of the Wafaqi Mohtasib Secretariat (WMS) to ensure that the public trust in the effectiveness of the institution is fully sustained. The rate of implementation during 2023 remained almost 80%.
In last two financial years, Regional Offices in far-flung areas such as Khuzdar (Balochistan), Mirpur Khas (Sindh), Sargodha (Punjab), Swat (KP) and Complaint Collection Centres in Sada (Kurram Agency) and Wana (South Waziristan Agency) have been opened to enhance institution’s outreach.
A litmus test for the accuracy and trustworthiness of the decisions of the Wafaqi Mohtasib is the minimal number of Review Petitions as well as Representations to the President.
Only 1,348 Review Petitions were filed either by the complainants or the Agencies concerned against the findings of the WM during the year 2022 which constituted only 0.8% of the total complaints decided.
Similarly, only 668 representations were filed to the President either by the complainants or the Agencies concerned against the decisions of the WM which is only 0.42% of total complaints disposed of during the year.
Under the Outreach Complaint Resolution (OCR) programme, 8,211 complaints were disposed of in the year 2022 by the Advisors of the WMS during their visits to tehsil / district headquarters on pre-advertised dates to resolve public complaints closer to their doorsteps. So far, in 2023 (till 30 June), 4520 cases have been disposed of under this mechanism.
Inspection Teams constituted by the Wafaqi Mohtasib carried out inspection of various agencies including CDA, health institutions, Nadra, NPF, Passport Office, EOBI, USC, BISP, PBM, Islamabad Airport, gas companies etc.; and suggested measures to improve the functioning of these agencies. The reports were forwarded to the concerned agencies for implementation of the recommendations contained therein and are being regularly followed up.
At Islamabad head office a full-time Grievance Commissioner is working to redress the complaints of overseas Pakistanis. One-Window Facilitation Desks have been established at all international airports in Pakistan to instantly address the complaints of overseas Pakistani passengers.
Up-till 30 June, 2023 a total of 88,150 complainants have been facilitated at OWFDs. Functioning of these desks is monitored through surprise visits by Grievance Commissioner. During the year 2022 a total of 137,647 complaints/queries showing a 133% increase from the last year, were received by WMS Grievance Commissioner Cell.
In order to ensure that the complaints lodged with the federal agencies directly by the complainants are processed quickly, WMS has developed an interface with 182 Federal Agencies in the Complaint Management Information System (CMIS) of WMS.
Any complaint that remains un-resolved for more than 30 days in an agency is automatically transferred to the CMIS of WMS for future processing and disposal within the next 60 days. During the year 2022, a total of 19,459 complaints were received and disposed of through this system while up till 30 June this year, 9,527 complaints were received.
Wafaqi Mohtasib has initiated a mechanism of Informal Resolution of Disputes (IRD) between the consenting parties as part of the ADR system and disposed of 1940 cases since April 2022 while 92 cases are in process.
While concentrating on resolving individual complaints, Wafaqi Mohtasib Secretariat has not lost sight of the need to follow up on its study reports in the context of systemic reforms. Studies on street children and population control mark the recent addition to the 28 studies on various important subjects of public welfare.
Pakistan is among the pioneering countries in South Asia employing the institution of Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman) as a mechanism for speedy and inexpensive justice. Besides, Forum of Pakistan Ombudsman, Wafaqi Mohtasib is an active member of IOI and OICOA.
Wafaqi Mohtasib is the current President of Asian Ombudsman Association and hosts its Secretariat in the WMS. Pakistan’s active role in the global ombudsman fraternity projects an international face of the country, promoting the cause of good governance, rule of law and inviolability of human rights.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023