The establishment of the Office of the Ombudsman in Kenya can be traced back to 1971 when the Commission of Inquiry (Public Service Structure and Remuneration Commission), commonly known as the Ndegwa Commission, recommended that the office be established. This was primarily borne out of the need to address poor service delivery in the public sector occasioned by endemic institutional and systemic failures, and poor work ethic. In particular, service delivery in public institutions was characterised by undue delays, abuse of power, discourtesy, inefficiency, corruption, ineptitude, manifest injustice and misbehaviour. The proposal of the Ndegwa Commission was, however, not implemented. The quality of service delivery in the public sector, therefore, continued to deteriorate thereby eroding public confidence and trust in public institutions.
Despite the foregoing, a number of national Policy Documents and Institutional Reports continued to point to the need to establish the Office of the Ombudsman in Kenya. According to the various Annual Reports of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (now Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission), about 85 per cent of the complaints received by the institution were of administrative nature which could be effectively addressed by the Office of the Ombudsman. The Kenya Vision 2030 and the Economic Recovery Strategy also provided a basis for the establishment of such an institution in Kenya to address poor governance in the public sector.
Consequently, the President established the Public Complaints Standing Committee (PCSC) in 2007 through Gazette Notice Number 5826 of June 2007 as a Department within the Ministry of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs. PCSC was mandated to enquire into allegations of misuse of office, corruption, and unethical conduct, breach of integrity, maladministration, delay, injustice, discourtesy, inattention, incompetence, misbehaviour, and inefficiency or ineptitude. It was also mandated to receive, register, sort, classify and document all complaints against public officers in Ministries, State Corporations, Statutory Bodies and other public institutions. However, this body lacked all the characteristics of an Ombudsman due to the nature of its establishment and lack of independence which affected its operations. The quest for an independent office, therefore, continued.
The pursuit for an independent office of the Ombudsman was given impetus by the implementation of the Agenda Four of the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation through the adoption of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 in which administrative matters are given prominence under Chapter Four. This culminated in the establishment of the Commission on Administrative Justice in September 2011 through the enactment of the Commission on Administrative Justice Act, 2011 in the restructuring of the Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission under Article 59(4) of the Constitution.