March 13, 2012

Report from February 2012 Meeting of Coalition of Federal Ombuds

At its latest monthly meeting, CoFO continued its discussions of best practices in the federal sector. In addition, CoFO opened elections for new officers. 

Discussion topics at the February meeting included: 

  • What are the key items to include in an Ombuds [Position Description]? (Most are GS-15s, a few are SES (however, the latter can be transferred out). Very few are political appointees. The grade level and PD should ensure the independence of the office.) 
  • How do Ombuds keep up with agency developments? (Attend senior level staff meetings or get notes from those meetings. Read daily clips if available from your agency. Attend selected training sessions, especially if “hot topic.” Send out periodic emails to targeted individuals about what ombuds is working on in order to encourage information sharing and reciprocity. The ombuds can write a short brief to a senior manager(s) if working on particularly significant case. If agency has a management advisory group, ombuds can provide relevant feedback/recommendations.) 
  • Where is the best location for an Ombuds Office? (Physical location: near leadership, near EEO/HR, secluded? It probably depends on situation and leadership. An ombuds needs to be seen but also have a private area. For internal: definitely need some “safe haven” space so people feel comfortable and see the ombuds as independent from management. For external: generally good to be near high-level staff. Want to be seen as high level and professional, but also want privacy.) 
Thirty three federal Ombuds participated, either in person or by conference call.  (CoFO meeting Minutes.)

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