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UNDP Turkey: This is the New Horizons Podcasts prepared by United Nations Development Programme in Turkey. In this episode, we will talk about the Ombudsman Institution. The Ombudsman Institution of Turkey and UNDP started the Project for Strengthening the Institutional Capacity of Ombudsman Institution in March 2015. This project will continue until 2017 and it mainly addresses the capacity needs and assets of the Ombudsman Institution in Turkey, supporting it to fulfill its mandate in line with EU accession requirements. In addition, the level of awareness on the mandate and functioning of Ombudsman Institution in Turkey will be increased among relevant stakeholders and the public at large. Serpil Çakın, an Ombudsman, joined Open Radio’s Altın Saatler programme and she talked about the ombudsmans and the Ombudsman Institution. She talked about the Ombudsman Institution as the following:

Serpil Çakın: Ombudsman Institution is a new institution in our country. It is known as ombudsman in the international platforms. Actually ombudsmans are there for the society but this term does not ring a bell for us. The main target of Ombudsman Institution or the ombudsmans is to solve citizens’ complaints about the administrations. The first aim of this solution is to ensure consensus, check the problems originating from the functioning of administrations in accordance with the law and equity. But if there is no consensus, we turn these inquiries into recommendations. We make recommendations to administrations. Our citizens, the individuals, send their complaints to us. We receive these complaints. We ask the reasons, regarding this complaint to the administrations. We should also look from the side of the administrations. An ombudsman should be objective. We ask the reasons to the administrations and we tried to bring two sides together. We try to bring them together in a consensus. We tell to the administrations to correct their wrongdoings if there is one from the side of the administrations, to change it or to apologize from the citizen. We don’t have boundaries in that regard. In other words, we can make recommendations in any way we want. 

UNDP Turkey: The Ombudsman Institution was established in June 2012 and it began to receive the complaints from citizens since March 29, 2013. In which situations can citizens apply to the Ombudsman Institution?  Serpil Çakın, Ombudsman:

Serpil Çakın: In general, you can make complaints about every action area of public administrations. But there are some constraints: If the issue was reverted to the judiciary, we cannot look into. We cannot get into the issue, if the judiciary made a decision about it or processing it. In addition, if the complaint is not about a specific issue or if it was reverted to our Institution before and no solution could find, the Ombudsman Institution still does not look in to the issue. Apart from these circumstances, citizens can apply with their complaints on every issue where a public administration is a part; like education, health, public personnel regime, children’s rights, women’s rights, etc. The citizen, first, needs to apply to the administration which causes the complaint due to a problem, rights violation experienced with that administration to solve that complaint or to retract/rectify the wrongdoing. If there is no prior application to that administration, we still bonafide send that application to the related administration. We do this to give the administrations the opportunity to control itself and rectify its wrongdoings if there is one. In other words, the legislator gives this opportunity. We want them to think about this first because there can be a fault even they don’t realize. They can do this wrongdoing unintentionally or without recognizing. It can be a problem that can be solved them when this opportunity is given. Due to this, there is a condition to apply the related administration first. As you know, after 60 days, administrations should reply to these complaints. If they reply within 60 days, from that point on in 6 months, they can apply to the Ombudsman Institution. If there are no responses, from the end of that 60 days in 6 months, they can apply to the Ombudsman Institution.

UNDP Turkey: The Project for Strengthening the Institutional Capacity of Ombudsman Institution follows these main ways for reaching its overall objective: Improved ability of the Ombudsman Institution for effective capacity development; Enhanced public awareness on the mandate and functioning of Ombudsman Institution; Increased involvement in information sharing platforms with other Ombudsman Institution in Europe. Serpil Çakın, the Ombudsman, tells what the ways are to apply to the Ombudsman Institution:

Serpil Çakın: They can first apply to us through our website. Nowadays people use internet a lot. But if they cannot apply through the website of Ombudsman Institution, which is http://www.ombudsman.gov.tr, they can apply us through giving a petition to their District Governorates or Governorates for them to send to the Ombudsman Institution; or through giving a petition to the Ombudsman Institution directly. We have our headquarters in Ankara and an office in İstanbul. They can apply to these offices in person or by mail. The addresses are in the institution’s website. They can apply through these addresses or via fax. They can also apply via e-mail but if they apply via e-mail or fax, they should send the original documents within 15 days.  

UNDP Turkey: What kind of a process are these applications going under through and how are they inquired and evaluated? We listen to Serpil Çakın:

Serpil Çakın: We have an expert team here. Our institutional structure is composed of one chief ombudsman and five ombudsmans but every ombudsman has their own topics and areas of expertise. There is expert teams working on these topics. This expert team first examines the complaint received. They talk with the citizen and the administration, if necessary. We first work for finding the solution, of course. We work to eliminate the problem or violation. But if there are no results achieved at the end of these bilateral meetings, we can develop any argument to collect the necessary information and documents. We can ask the justifications of the administrations. We can collect opinions from related universities, NGOs and any one. We can ask help from an expert if it is a technical issue which requires specific information out of our knowledge. We can hear from the witnesses if the issue have. We can even conduct site visits. We sometimes have situations where you need to go to the site and listen to the different parties. We can do site visits and we need to all of these in 6 months. We need to finalize the case within 6 months when it first received by our Institution and entered into the records. We usually do finalize them. But in case we still continue our inquiries and we could not finalize it within 6 months, we inform the applicant. This is important because term of litigation starts for the citizens when this 6 months ends. Due to this reason, we tell to our citizens that the 6-month term for inquiries and research has ended. We could not finish our inquiries to this and that reason. We explain our reasons and we tell to them their term of litigation starts. But in 90% of our cases, we finalize the inquiries within 6 months.

UNDP Turkey:  Serpil Çakır said that they have received 18.503 applications since 2013. And she gives the following statistics on the results of the applications:

Serpil Çakın: More than 17,000 of these applications have been finalized. I cannot remember the exact number. We currently have 720 files in our hands to be finalized. These cases can be finalized in different ways. For some of them, meetings with administrations are organized, as I said. In other words, we try to reconcile the two parties. Or, we try to find solutions with our initiatives. We sometimes remind the administrations their responsibilities, duties or the rights of citizens; and solve the issue. In some cases the citizen give up its complaint as the issue resolved with our efforts and the case is finalized. In some cases, the administrative procedures are not exhausted and we refer to the administrations. When this referral made by us, it can be more effective. As this application is sent from the Ombudsman Institution, due to this effect, it can be solved. If all of these are not possible, the inquiries are turned into recommendations. In these recommendations, there are different options for administrations, like correcting or retracting from the wrongdoing, apologize to the citizen, or compensate the damage. Or, it can be finalized with a recommendation.

UNDP Turkey: You can tell us your opinions about this episode via Twitter with #yeniufuklar hashtag. UNDP and Ombudsman Institution will work together in this project to strengthen the human rights mechanism in Turkey, which will continue until March 2017. In summary, Serpil Çakır describes the role of the Ombudsman Institution in Turkey with these words:

Serpil Çakın: We can say that the Ombudsman Institution is an institution between its citizens and its state which brings the citizen and the state together, develops good relations, acts as a mediator. But it has the following impact: Ombudsman Institution earns its impact from the moral social power. It earns from the idea of self-rectification and not to have a bad personality at the public level, at the individual level. I can say that it has this moral side. It has no legal sanctions. It has recommendations. Yes, these recommendations should be implemented but it is a sanction in a way that it came from the shame at the public level. As we have seen in our study visits abroad, an individual application to the Ombudsman Institution is perceived as a shame for the public administration. Because it has a powerful effect in minds.

UNDP Turkey: We have come to end of the episode of New Horizons with Serpil Çakır’s words, quoted from an interview with Open Radio. In this episode, we talked about the Ombudsman Institution. This program has been recorded at the studio of Yodiviki in İstanbul. You can follow our program on FM frequency in İstanbul, on Açık Radyo (Open Radio) on Internet, on university radios in our broadcasting network, on iTunes, Soundcloud, TuneIn, Pure Connect, Yodiviki, Audioboo and TTNET Müzik in podcast format, and also on tr.undp.org. Our user name for social media is undpturkiye. Hope to see you soon, good-bye!
















Serpil Çakın, Ombudsman