A public official appointed to investigate complaints by citizens against local or national government agencies that may be infringing upon the rights of individuals. Call me a goombah, but I don't think I've ever lived anywhere where they had an ombudsman. I don't think they exist anymore. I've heard of ombudsmen who work at utilities like the electric company or the phone company, but their jobs seem to be taking complaints from customers and making sure those complaints never get a response.

Addendum: webtoe notes that ombudsmen remain common officials in England (and likely, elsewhere in Europe) and that they have the same duties and responsibilities across the Pond as they did over here. Just goes to show the importance of thinking globally when you make writeups...

Addendum Addendum: Truffle adds that ombudspersons are very prevalent in Canada (British Columbia in particular), and the Canadian model of ombudspersons is currently spreading into other nations' public administrations.

Addendum Addendum Addendum: Ahab notes that National Public Radio is another organization that has an ombudsman and points out that many ombudsmen in the United States are called "auditors" or "auditors general".

About the only Swedish word apart from smorgasbord and gravlax that has been assimilated into the English language that I know of. It simply means representative (in the sense that the ombudsman is a person representing others) and is an incredibly dull word that just reeks of order and regulations. I don't know if this somehow reflects the character of the Swedes; we tend to be a bit proud of our talent for rationality and bureaucracy in some perverse and/or masochistic way.

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