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Bulgarian Society Needs an Ombudsman for its Fight against Corruption
Bulgaria needs an ombudsman, a work group at the Center for the Study of Democracy believes. The group has proposed the creation in Bulgaria of the institution of the ombudsman as part of the Anti-Corruption Action Plan of Coalition 2000.

"The primary function and role of the ombudsman and the other similar institutions is to observe the functioning of administration in the country and to prevent abuse of power, corruption and arbitrary decisions, which infringe on human rights," says the report prepared by the work group.

In many countries the ombudsman institution has developed as an element of the mechanism for guaranteeing the free exercise of human rights. The institution originated in the Scandinavian countries (the institution was first established in Sweden in 1713 by the King) from where it name comes. In its classical form the institution is either set up directly by the constitution or elsewhere, and is empowered by the Parliament to safeguard the rights of private persons against the infringement of the state administration.

According to the work group at the Center for the Study of Democracy, the best means of creating such an institution in Bulgaria would be its explicit provision in the Constitution. Under the current distribution of political powers in Parliament, though, that is unlikely to be achieved. For this reason the work group has proposed that the institution be based on a special statute.

The work group report proposes the creation of the institution of "one national ombudsman with general responsibilities which will combine the characteristics of the classical Scandinavian ombudsman model with some of the new features of its modern versions existing in the European countries, and with some adjustments according to conditions in Bulgaria." The most essential function of the ombudsman institution will be to guarantee more efficiently the rights and freedoms of private persons. If the former are abused by the public authorities, the ombudsman shall be entitled to propose measures for terminating the acts of abuse, compensating the incurred damages and creating conditions for the smooth and efficient exercise of their rights in the future.

More specifically, the ombudsman will have the authority to monitor and control the exercise of administrative power, the organization and regulation of the judicial system's administration, as well as any other exercise of public authority. However, the subject and scope of the ombudsman's activities will not include certain institutions, such as the National Assembly, the President, the Constitutional Court and the judiciary.

The work group has proposed that the ombudsman be elected by a simple majority directly by the National Assembly. It has been suggested that the ombudsman's mandate should be longer than the mandate of the National Assembly - five or more years. The number of the ombudsman's mandates will be limited to no more than two. At the same time, he will enjoy immunity similar to that of the members of Parliament. The ombudsman will have to report to the National Assembly once a year.

By creating the institution of the ombudsman, Bulgaria will be responding to the recommendations of the Council of Europe for the establishment of such institutions in those countries where they are still not present.
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