In a recent paper released by The At-Large Advisory Committee, some interesting comments were made about the expansion of my role as ombudsman. I quote what they say-
“Study the extension of the duties of the Ombudsman to include the role of “independent objector” and consideration of “freedom of Information” requests regarding documents deemed confidential.”
The second part is already partly covered by my Bylaw of course where it says at 3.3
“3. have the right to have access to (but not to publish if otherwise confidential) all necessary information and records from ICANN staff and constituent bodies to enable an informed evaluation of the complaint and to assist in dispute resolution where feasible (subject only to such confidentiality obligations as are imposed by the complainant or any generally applicable confidentiality policies adopted by ICANN);”
This does not of course give me the power to require release of documents under FOI principles, and I would like some debate on whether this power is needed. ICANN does have a policy on open and transparent disclosure, and some comment on the need for this from the community would be useful for me, as I am reviewing the bylaws anyway. At the IOI Conference there was considerable discussion about this role in the context of classical ombudsman, and it is regarded in that context as a very important tool in the investigation work of an ombudsman.I have never had any difficulty in obtaining any documents which I need, but I do believe that I could have a role in assessing whether documents should be released or not. I would expect that in the normal course a request would go to the ICANN general counsel, and that if he considered that a document should be kept confidential, I would have the right under my present bylaw to look at the document. I would not have the power to require release however. The issue is whether I should have that power, and that is something where there should be discussion.
The next point in relation to the role of “Independent objector” is something of an expansion of my role. I do of course have the power to commence an investigation on my own motion, but a wider power to object to a decision or some aspect of policy is a slightly different sort of jurisdiction. An ombudsman will often need to act as the conscience of an organisation, but of course I am not always alerted to the existence of a problem until a complaint is received. Again, discussion from the community would be very useful.
So, for those who read my blog, I would welcome any comments about these matters so that I may form a view.