Standards and Foundational Documents

COFO endorses the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) 2016 recommendations on the use of ombuds in federal agencies, which include the universally recognized ombudsman professional standards of independence, impartiality, and confidentiality. In addition, COFO recognizes the three ombudsman “definitional characteristics” of informality, credible review process, and fairness discussed in ACUS’ accompanying report. Federal offices which do not adhere to the three professional ombudsman standards of practice outlined by ACUS should not use the “ombudsman” title.

Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) Recommendation 2016-5: The Use of Ombuds in Federal Agencies – https://www.acus.gov/research-projects/use-ombuds-federal-agencies – Extensive report and recommendations for agencies to use in establishing and maintaining ombuds offices. ACUS is the independent federal agency responsible for recommending improvements to administrative process and procedure. Recommendations were adopted by the full conference, consisting of representatives from across the federal government, on December 14, 2016.

COFO Endorsement and Practice Commentary for ACUS Recommendation 2016-5 – COFO’s endorsement of the ACUS report and additional guidelines and standards for agencies to use in conjunction with the ACUS recommendations when establishing and maintaining ombuds offices.

A Unified Model for Developing an Ombuds Function – Extensive guidebook developed by COFO in 2006 to assist agencies in creating and developing ombuds offices.

International Ombudsman Association (IOA) Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics – https://www.ombudsassociation.org/standards-of-practice-code-of-ethics – Core practice standards, tenets, and ethics for the organizational (internal) ombudsman model.

United States Ombudsman Association (USOA) Governmental Ombudsman Standards – https://www.usombudsman.org/usoa-governmental-ombudsman-standards/ – Core practice standards, tenets, and ethics for externally-facing governmental ombuds.

The Administrative Dispute Resolution Act (ADRA) of 1996 – defines “alternative means of dispute resolution” to mean any procedure that is used to resolve issues in controversy, including but not limited to conciliation, facilitation, mediation, fact-finding, mini-trials, arbitration, and use of ombuds, or any combination thereof. ADRA contains specific provisions for Confidentiality that apply to all federal Ombuds.

“A Guide for Federal Employee Ombuds: A Supplement to and Annotation of the Standards for the Establishment and Operations of Ombuds Offices Issued by the American Bar Association.” Guide developed by the Coalition of Federal Ombudsman (COFO) and the Federal Interagency Alternative Dispute Resolution Working Group (IADRWG) Steering Committee, building upon the Standards For The Establishment And Operation Of Ombuds Offices, issued February 2004 by the American Bar Association (ABA), and is intended only for use by federal employee Ombuds in connection with their functions for the federal government.