The Austrian Ombudsman Board
The Austrian Ombudsman Board (AOB) has been monitoring the public administration since 1977 based on the Federal Constitution. Since 1 July 2012, the AOB has also been responsible by order of the Federal Constitution for protecting and promoting compliance with human rights. The AOB consists of three members who work together in a collegial way. They are elected for a term of six years by the Austrian Parliament (National Council) and can be re-elected once. The members of the AOB are independent in the performance of their duties. They cannot be voted out, recalled or removed from office. The ombudspersons are sworn in by the Federal President.
Tasks and areas of responsibility
The Austrian Ombudsman Board (AOB) has been monitoring the public administration since 1977 based on the Federal Constitution. Since 1 July 2012, the AOB has also been responsible by order of the Federal Constitution for protecting and promoting compliance with human rights as part of the UN mandate.
Monitoring public administration
The Austrian Ombudsman Board is one of the so-called supreme bodies of the Republic of Austria and has been monitoring the public administration since 1977 based on the Federal Constitution. It monitors all authorities, administrative bodies and departments of the state, the provinces and the local government authorities in the entire federal territory. The Ombudsman Board in Tyrol and Vorarlberg only examine complaints about the Federal administration as the state parliaments there appoint their own state ombudsmen.
The AOB investigates complaints from citizens and assesses whether the administration is acting within the law and complies with human rights standards. If the AOB suspects maladministration, it can also act ex-officio – in other words act without a specific complaint. More information on the subject of complaints to the AOB you can find here.
Protecting and promoting human rights
Since 1 July 2012, the AOB has also been responsible by order of the Federal Constitution for protecting and promoting compliance with human rights as part of the UN mandate. Since then, the AOB along with its commissions has been monitoring all institutions in which liberty is being or may be deprived or restricted. It also examines the institutions and programmes for people with disabilities as well as the exercise by the administration of direct authority and the use of force, particularly during deportations and demonstrations. For more information on the subject of preventive human rights monitoring click here.
The AOB supports legislative authority
The impact laws actually have on people’s lives is often only evident when regulations are applied by authorities. Breaking points or shortcomings of laws often become evident when they are monitored. The AOB incorporates these experiences into the ongoing legislative process by occasionally drawing up statements on draft laws for the evaluation procedure and submitting these statements to the Austrian Parliament or a state parliament.
The AOB also makes the legislative authority aware of existing legal provisions that are problematic and draws up suggestions for improvements in the form of legislative propositions. An overview on this subject can be found in the respective annual report of the AOB.
The AOB is also authorised have the legitimacy of a regulation of a federal or provincial authority assessed in the event that concerns are raised. The board is in this case able to submit an application to the Constitutional Court. The AOB is also involved in petitions and citizens’ initiatives that are addressed towards the Austrian Parliament. It elaborates statements relating to the above and submits these statements to Parliament or the relevant state parliament.
The AOB consists of three members. They are elected for a term of six years by the Austrian Parliament (National Council) and can be re-elected once. Günther Kräuter, Gertrude Brinek and Peter Fichtenbauer were elected by the National Council for the term of office from July 2013 to June 2019.
The Austrian Ombudsman Board (AOB) consists of three members who work together in a collegial way. The Chair changes annually at the end of June. Since July 2015, Ombudsman Peter Fichtenbauer carries out this function. The Chairperson supervises the internal administration of the AOB and represents it in the public. However, all important matters are discussed and decided upon jointly. At the beginning of their term of office, the AOB members agree upon an allocation of business. This legal regulation determines the complaint handling area of each member and stipulates which administrative sectors will be within each member’s remit.
Currently, the AOB has 90 employees, approximately half of whom are legal experts handling the cases investigated. The information service and the secretariats of the AOB members are the points of contact for citizens’ concerns.
Since September 2009, the AOB has also been operating the headquarters of the General Secretariat of the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI). The IOI is an international organisation that promotes the cooperation between independent ombudsman institutions for the public sector at the national, regional and local level.
With the effect of 1 July 2012, the AOB appointed six Commissions comprising 48 members who perform these tasks as a secondary job. They monitor and control all institutions and facilities where people with and without disabilities are in danger of abuse, inhuman treatment and measures that deprive them of their liberty. The newly established Human Rights Advisory Council advises the members of the AOB with regard to their new tasks.
The organisational chart (only in German) of the AOB provides an overview of the areas of responsibility and the contact details.
In the years following the end of the Second World War, individual politicians demanded the introduction of an ombudsman in Austria. The AOB, however, was only set up in the 1970s.
The establishment of the Austrian Ombudsman Board and its legal position is based on article 148a to 148j of the Austrian Federal Constitution (B-VG) and the Federal Law on the Austrian Ombudsman Board (Volksanwaltschaftsgesetz 1982 - VolksanwG). Two regulations govern the internal structure and functioning of the AOB. At the beginning of their term of office, the members of the Austrian Ombudsman Board agree on an Allocation of Duties. The Rules of Procedure of the Austrian Ombudsman Board govern the organisation in detail.
Since 1 July 2012, the AOB has undertaken the responsibility of monitoring and controlling public and private institutions and facilities where freedom is or can be restricted. This mandate under Austrian constitutional law enables the broad-based establishment of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) in Austria. It is based on the Act on the Implementation of the OPCAT (OPCAT Durchführungsgesetz), which implemented the UN Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).