The Ombudsman’s Council, established in 1999, is an independent body consisting of ten members. It is answerable to neither the industry nor anyone else, and was created for the specific purpose of monitoring the independence and performance of the office of the Ombudsman.
Its mandate, contained in its constitution, is to facilitate the provision by the office of the Ombudsman of independent, equitable, speedy and cost-effective resolution of disputes. For these purposes it is the Council that appoints the Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman, and to further ensure the maintenance of the office’s independence and standards of performance, it receives the Ombudsman’s annual report and ongoing updates on the Ombudsman’s activities, considers its finances and statistics, approves its budget, fixes and makes changes to the office’s Rules and generally sees to it that the office fulfills its own mission.
In the result the office of the Ombudsman is answerable to the Council alone, acts independently and objectively and, most important of all, is independent of the industry.
The Financial Services Ombud Schemes (“FSOS”) Act of 2004 stipulates that no voluntary ombud scheme will be permitted to operate as such unless it has been accorded recognition in terms of the Act, which the office duly applied for and was granted. Of the requirements for recognition section 10(1)(b) stipulates that the scheme must be answerable to “a body that is not controlled by participants in the scheme and to which the ombud is accountable, must … appoint the ombud, … monitor the performance and independence of the ombud, … and monitor the continued compliance by the scheme with its constitution, the provisions of the scheme and this Act …”. The Council has of course always been just such a body, and because it had been established six years before it became a legislative requirement in terms of section (10)(1)(b) it was as such ahead of its time, its establishment in 1999 having foreseen the future need for such bodies in the interests of consumers.
Save for three who are members ex officio, the members of the Council, who are citizens of standing, are appointed in their personal capacities, but with due regard to the knowledge and skills required by the office of the Ombudsman, and the need to represent the broad public interest and promote public confidence.