September 21, 2016

Administrative Conference of the United States Publishes First Draft of Federal Ombuds Study

ACUS has released a draft report titled: "A Reappraisal - The Nature and Value of Ombudsmen in Federal Agencies."  Produced by researchers with chiResolutions, the report seeks: 1. to identify federal Ombuds and their practices; 2. to define best practices for federal Ombuds; and 3. to recommend situations where Ombuds would benefit agencies. 

The document is quite detailed; the executive summary alone is 61 pages. 
The Report consists of four parts, and reflects the research that was conducted in two phases. This Executive Summary (Part 1) offers the purpose and context for the report, an overview of our research methodology as a whole, summaries of findings from the two research phases including promising best practices, overviews of the policy considerations on standards and the legal analysis, and includes at the end a draft Recommendation for ACUS. 
Part 2 of the Report contains both Phase 1 and 2 of the research. Phase 1 of the research provides a definition of key terms; some historical information; context setting and a literature review; a narrative and visual display (Taxonomy, Appendix B) of our notional classification of the many varieties of federal sector ombuds offices; information on the design, distribution and collection of our quantitative and qualitative surveys; and separate summaries of the responses to the two surveys.
Phase 2 of the research includes case studies of four different ombuds offices that have provided value and innovation at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Department of Energy, the Department of Interior, and the Internal Revenue Service (the National Taxpayer Advocate). Profiles of the Long Term Care Ombuds program and the Navy Family Ombuds program are also included. These latter two profile subjects are unique in many ways, including relying heavily on volunteers, and are the face of the ombuds world to many Americans. A brief profile on the Coalition of Federal Ombudsmen (COFO) is offered since many of our interviewees commented on its importance in the development of the federal ombuds field, to date, and expressed strong support for it—or something like it—to play a continued or expanded role in the future. Part 2 concludes with a summary of insights and promising best practices, possibilities for further research, and discussion of policy considerations regarding ombuds professional standards.
Part 3 of the Report encompasses an extensive analysis of legal issues affecting federal ombuds, and Part 4 offers the draft Recommendation, as a separate document, for ACUS’ consideration.
The authors are: Carole Houk, JD, LLM; Mary Rowe, PhD; Deborah Katz, JD; Neil Katz, PhD; Lauren Marx, MS, and Timothy Hedeen, PhD.  The offer the following recommendation for ACUS to consider and adopt:

[T]he Conference continues to urge Congress and the President to create, fund and otherwise support ombuds offices across the government consistent with the recommendation articulated below. Further, the Conference urges those agencies that already have ombudsmen and those that are contemplating creating ombuds offices to align their office standards and practices with those included in this recommendation.
The ACUS Committee on Rulemaking will consider the report at its next meeting on September 28, 2016.  The document is available now for download.  (ACUS Ombuds Project.)

Related posts: Administrative Conference of the U.S. Issues RFP for Federal Ombuds Study; Federal Ombuds 2015 Conference Agenda AnnouncedYear-Long Study of U.S. Federal Ombuds Launches.

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