An Ombudsman (of general jurisdiction) is an independent, non-governmental Official who investigates complaints from the public about the administrative actions of public authorities and provides an impartial form of alternative dispute resolution.
The modern ombudsman, a Swedish institution, was established around 1809. The Constitution creating the Swedish Parliament also provided for parliamentary oversight of the bureaucratic machinery through a new official called the Justitieombudsman.
Over a period of time, the institution gradually changed and eventually the ombudsman’s main function came to be the investigation of complaints of maladministration on behalf of aggrieved citizens and the recommendation of corrective action to the governmental official or department involved.
For a complaint to fall within the ombudsman’s jurisdiction in all the countries mentioned, it must be with respect to action taken in the exercise of administrative functions of any course of conduct or anything done or omitted by any person in the exercise of administrative functions or any decision or recommendation made or act done or omitted as a result of the exercise of the administrative function.
(from Strengthening Ombudsman and Human Rights Institutions in Commonwealth Small and Island States by Victor Ayeni, Linda Reif, Hayden Thomas)
The International Ombudsman Institute notes:
In many countries around the world there is an ombudsman who deals with complaints from the public regarding decisions, actions or omissions of public administration. Although the specific role may vary the holder of this office is usually elected by parliament or appointed by the head of state or government by or after consultation with parliament. The role of the ombudsman is to protect the people against violation of rights, abuse of powers, error, negligence, unfair decisions and maladministration and to improve public administration while making the government’s actions more open and its administration more accountable to the public.
The Ombudsman may also be titled the Parliamentary Commissioner, Complaints Commissioner or Protecteur du Citoyen in some CAROA member states.