THE SULONG - OMBUDSMAN OF USM

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PENANG, November 2018 – USM reads with great happiness over the rebranding and retasking of the Public Complaints Bureau (PCB) as the newly established Ombudsman of Malaysia.

This long awaited announcement by the Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on 21st September 2018 reflects the governance reformation agenda for Malaysia to have an independent and transparent Ombudsman in place of the PCB.

The Prime Minister has reiterated the new role and function of Ombudsman Malaysia to combat nationwide corruption during the recent Anti-Corruption Summit, organised by Transparency Malaysia at Istana Hotel on 30 October 2018.

During the Summit, the Prime Minister has reminded that Malaysia requires a new effort to ensure a more effective way in fighting public complaints on corruption in Malaysia.

At USM, Ombudsman has commenced its role and function way back in 2013. The establishment of the Ombudsman and his office on the 2nd of April 2013, was an initiative undertaken to realise one of the main pillars of APEX transformation in ensuring good governance and integrity in the University ecosystem.

Professor Dato’ Seri Dr. Md. Salleh Yaapar is the current Ombudsman of USM.

When the idea of setting up its very own Ombudsman office was mooted, USM encountered many hurdles to justify the “ombudsman” concept and principle as it was new to the Malaysian at the time.

At the time, to some in power, the word itself was taboo and thus, the idea was not well-received. However, with the determination of the then USM Vice-Chancellor, USM has successfully managed to convince the Ministry of Higher Education (then) that the USM Ombudsman is a relevant medium to ensure Malaysian Public Universities achieve the next level of independence and transparency.

The introduction of a USM "complaint officer" or known as an Ombudsman has been included in the USM APEX Constitution with an important mandate to act as the integrity agent that promotes and ensures the good governance of the University.

The writer remembered a special message from the then Vice-Chancellor in his annual speech in 2012, that encourages every member of the USM community to come forward and become the whistleblower of the university since the prime motivation behind the establishment of the office is to improve, transform and enhance the University administration, integrity and management from time to time.

The USM Ombudsman, being the first formal Ombudsman ever set up in Malaysia, is a member of the Ombudsman Association International (International Ombudsman Association - IOA), based in Los Angeles, USA. The membership is to ensure the principles of the university ombudsman as applied in most of the US universities are adhered to the fullest by USM.

Currently, the University Ombudsman Office is open to all the University staff and students. The Ombudsman is an independent agent who is mandated to ensure that all members of the University community are treated equitably and fairly.

The USM Ombudsman provides confidential and formal or informal assistance to help resolve issues related to workplace and academic environments. A complainant can discuss issues and concerns with the Ombudsman without committing to further disclosure or any formal resolution.

The USM Ombudsman provides the Vice-Chancellor with a confidential annual statistical report that summarises the activity of the Office and operates in accordance to the code of ethics and standards of practice of the International Ombudsman Association i.e: Confidential; Independent; and Neutral.

As stated in the Ombudsman Statute, the Ombudsman main function is to protect the interests, rights, and privileges of all USM staff, students and the respective faculties at all levels of the University’s operations and administration.

The USM Ombudsman is hence, designated by the University to function as an impartial and neutral resource to assist the University community. For this purpose, he said, an Ombudsman Act would be drafted to ensure a more effective management of public complaints in Malaysia.

USM Ombudsman welcomes any form of discussion and collaboration with the Ombudsman Malaysia so as to strengthen the entity for the best interest of Malaysia.

Text: Dr. Khairul Anuar Che Azmi, USM Legal Advisor

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