Acquisition & Assistance Ombudsman

Speeches Shim

Purpose of the U.S. Agency for International Development Ombudsman's Office

Prior to establishing the Office of the Ombudsman, there was no informal channel for implementing partners – contractors and grantees – to report complaints or resolve questions arising during any stage of the Acquisition & Assistance process.  As a result, the available recourse to implementing partners when there was a conflict, concern, difference or problematic issue was litigation in the federal courts which proved to be costly, time consuming, a drain on Agency resources and damaging to the Agency’s reputation.   By establishing the office of the A&A/PSC Ombudsman, USAID created a process for contractors, employees and other parties participating in the Acquisition and Assistance process to speak up about potentially serious issues in a safe environment.

Role of the A&A Ombudsman

The primary purpose of the Acquisition and Assistance (A&A) Ombudsman’s Office is to ensure equitable treatment of all parties participating in USAID’s acquisition and assistance process. The A&A Ombudsman is the designated neutral Agency official responsible for managing internal and external complaints related to any phase of the procurement process.  The Ombudsman reports directly to the Director of M/OAA and is independent of all other offices within M/OAA.  

Standards of Practice of the A&A Ombudsman

The A&A Ombudsman operates in a manner that preserves the confidentiality of those seeking its services.  The Office maintains a neutral and impartial position with respect to the concerns raised.   It operates based on four main tenets:

a. Confidentiality

The Ombudsman maintains the privacy of the identity of clients as well as the content of their conversations.  With permission from the requestor, the Ombudsman’s Office may contact other involved parties such as the Contracting & Agreement Officers, Contracting Officer Representatives and Agreement Officer Representatives, managers, supervisors or any other party within the Agency in order to resolve a problem.

b. Informality

The Ombudsman offers an informal channel of communication.  Its function is to listen and help analyze options for resolution while remaining neutral and facilitating an informal resolution process. The Ombudsman does not:

  • Direct or compel Agency or CO action
  • Perform formal investigations
  • Receive formal notice for the Agency
  • Make binding decisions, determine rights or mandate policies for the Agency
  • Substitute for USAID’s formal processes
  • Toll any time limitation for filing a protest, dispute or appeal with the federal courts or Board of Contract Appeals

The Ombudsman may:  

  • Develop, evaluate, and discuss available options
  • Facilitate, negotiate, and mediate
  • Conduct inquiries
  • Perform informal investigations
  • Report findings while preserving confidentiality
  • Make recommendations
  • Identify complaint patterns and trends
  • Educate

c. Neutrality or Impartiality

The Ombudsman has no personal interest or stake in the outcome of any dispute.  The Office attempts to promote fair processes for all and does not advocate for either side.  The Ombudsman does not attempt to second guess the decision making of the CO/AO, however the Ombudsman wants to determine wither the decision was made in good faith, with proper information, in the absence of conflicts of interestand not unreasonable or irrational. 

d. Independence

The A&A Ombudsman reports directly to the Director of M/OAA and it operates independently of any other office or division within M/OAA.

When Your Assistance is Requested Expect the Ombudsman to:
  • Provide you with an impartial explanation of the matter under consideration
  • Explore with you the facts of the situation to clarify the issues
  • Offer a contextual explanation of relevant A&A regulations and policy or best practices, when appropriate
  • Complete an impartial review of the matter
  • Assist in achieving outcomes consistent with fairness and respectful treatment
  • Elevate matters to appropriate levels, when necessary
  • Hold confidential discussions with you, except to address an imminent risk of serious harm or as expressly permitted by you. Expressly permitted means, verbal or written agreement or by virtue of the individual's inclusiveness of others parties access to the specific information, i.e. including others cc'd on e-mail. Imminent risk of serious harm (definition is under legal review)
What should you do?
  • Remember the Ombudsman is asking for your assistance
  • Prepare for discussions
    • Gather pertinent facts/information
    • Describe the situation a concise manner
    • Identify expectations and/or desired outcome, if any
    • Provide relevant documentation, points of contact or other pertinent references that supports the agency position on the matter.
  • Be willing to explore solutions
  • Go to Ombudsman FAQs

Contact Information for the Ombudsman's Office


Other Information and Resources


If you have a question that is not related to the Ombudsman, use the Contact USAID page.