Complaints boss slams pace of change

| 08/01/2015 | 7 Comments
Cayman News Service

Nicola Williams

(CNS): Nicola Williams, who steps down as complaints commissioner on Friday, has said she is “extremely disappointed in the glacial pace” that the local government is moving at when it comes to implementing the recommendations she has made in a number of her Own Motion Reports. Williams said that four years after her report on the problems with pension non-compliance in the private sector, there is still no new law.

In a parting statement on Thursday evening reviewing her time here, she pointed out that she was informed in 2010, even before the report was published, that the pension legislation was imminent but today there is still no sign of a law to address the catalogue of issues relating to compliance and badly managed funds.

Williams said that while a large number of the recommendations in the Health and Safety report were complied with, those outstanding are dependent on legislation which, two and a half years after the report, has yet to be passed, let alone enacted.

She said that the Protected Disclosures Bill will see government meet the recommendations in the investigation on whistleblowing but she noted that it would have been very useful to civil servants, given recent topical events, for that law to have already reached the statute books.

During her five years here, Williams said, the Office of the Complaints Commissioner (OCC) had achieved a great deal. As well as the outreach work and education, they had assisted with the ongoing development of internal complaints procedures across the civil service and treated all complainants with fairness and professionalism.

“All of this, as well as our core work of conducting investigations, has established and consolidated OCC as a professional and respected organization,” she said, pointing out that public confidence in the office has risen from 30% in 2009 to 75% currently today.

Wanting to see the office go from strength to strength after her departure, Williams said the proposed merger of the OCC, ICO and any new body dealing with police complaints all under a Public Sector Ombudsman would be “a retrograde step”. She said it will not strengthen the OCC but serve to weaken and diminish it.

“I am sure that is not the intention of this government,” she said, adding that splicing together disparate bodies with completely different functions whose only common thread is oversight was not good governance. She also pointed out that any such a merger would require legislative and constitutional amendments.

Continuing her advocacy for an independent body dealing with police complaints, she said whether or not that is a stand-alone agency or merged with the OCC, when it happens it needs to be properly funded, as she also lamented her own battles dealing with a diminishing budget year on year.

She said it was unusual and “deeply regrettable” that the OCC has no deputy complaints commissioner post, the only senior job in government that doesn’t. “There is no justifiable reason for this difference,” Williams stated, and said such a key gap at senior level presented an inherent problem for succession planning in the civil service.

With no deputy to stand in when Williams leaves on Friday, Bridgette von Gerhardt, the OCC administrative and investigative officer, will be the latest acting boss in a growing list of major posts in government when she takes up the acting complaints commissioner role from 10 January.

Williams is leaving the OCC job and the Cayman Islands to return to the UK, where she will be taking up a major new post as the Ombudsman for the UK Armed Forces.

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Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (7)

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  1. GUEST says:

    Right off of the government website: When the Office of the Complaints Commission first opened its doors to the public in December 2004, Bridgette Lazzari-von Gerhardt was a part of the original three person team.

  2. Tommy Goff says:

    This poor Lady Just didn’t get It . Complaints only go as far as the government the Lodge and UK allow them to go plain and simple and if interferes or conflicts with their whims or nasty little agenda’s oh well, we all know and see what happens to the fools and their families who complain. Hell has no mercy for victims who try to hide from those they complained about.I pity da fool!!

  3. says:

    The law is slow because the Cayman Ruling Class does not want its mis-deed to be exposed.
    Corruption is part of the culture.
    We can eventually stamp it out but it will take a long time.

  4. Concerned Cayman Resident says:

    Ms. Von Gerhardt is a lovely lady and is hard working however she is still just a high school graduate with a few UCCI courses under her belt and has not the experience necessary to be Acting Complaints Commissioner. As is the norm, the Government of the Cayman Islands is once again setting up another of their own to fail.

  5. The Sandman says:

    Ms Williams did her best though I do not think she was as effective as the first Complaints Commissioner John Epp who regularly peppered the Government and media with stuff and kept people on their toes. She states her opposition to the idea of a combination of the post of OCC with that of ICO and whatever the police complaints body is called. Such a combined post could be called “The Ombudsman”. Her objection (which I am certain is shared by the Acting ICO) is based on “empire grounds”-understandably they want their own position, their own staff, their own prestige and their own (high) salary. But this is a jurisdiction of about 65,000, not one of 65 million. We already have several “empires’ which could be dissolved; in these fiscally tight times we need to bite the bullet and say “enough”.

    • Jack says:

      Suppose the Complaints Commission needs to investigate the Police Complaints Body? What happens under a situation where they are combined and working under the Ombudsman? Also, the Complaints Commissioner is already defined as an Ombudsman in the current constitution

    • P.A.Rody says:

      Her objection is based on “empire grounds” and keeping her own position? seriously this report is her stepping down speech, so how is she trying to keep her position she has just left, you make no sense. But don’t let facts get in way of your arguement

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