CIG presses on with ombudsman merger

| 18/04/2016 | 7 Comments
Cayman News Service

Cayman Islands Government Administration Building

(CNS): Government has confirmed it will be pressing ahead with the merger of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the Office of the Complaints Commissioner (OCC) to form a new ombudsman’s office that will also deal with police complaints. The controversial decision will save the government just $83,000 a year from the existing budget for the two offices and prevent the need to spend a further $600,000 to meet the legal requirement of a separate independent police complaints watchdog. The deputy governor’s office said that Cabinet gave the green light to the business case for the amalgamation on Friday and that preparation for the merger would now begin.

Former complaints commissioner, Nicola Williams, and former information commissioner, Jennifer Dilbert, as well as the current acting information commissioner, Jan Liebaers, have all cautioned against the merger of the offices because of the very different functions each of them provides.

Already short-staffed and over-worked, they will see their workloads increase as the new Office of the Ombudsman (OOO) will be acquiring new resonsibilities conferred on it under forthcoming data protection and whistleblower legislation, as well as taking on complaints about the police.

The deputy governor’s office pointed to the “improved effectiveness and efficiencies in a context of fiscal constraint” as the justification for the union and the cash government will not need to spend on a third office to deal with public complaints about the police.

The business case for the ombudsman’s office is the first one that Cabinet has approved from suggestions made in the 2014 EY report, which was commissioned by government to find possible savings and efficiencies in public spending.

Two years after the creation of Project Future, a government department created to implement cost-cutting measures, this merger of government watchdogs, which many believe has political implications, was seized on as a priority, rather than the numerous recommendations in the EY report that would save millions rather than tens of thousands of dollars.

In the report the auditors had recommended that the ICO and the OCC share an office and some administrative staff but government is going much further and merging all of the functions of the two offices, which it said has happened in other jurisdictions.

In the outline business case, a number of objectives and justification are listed for the creation of the supra-ombudsman’s office, including the maximisation of potential savings from management and administration costs, avoidance of additional management and administration costs for police complaints while complying with the 2010 police law, and enhancment of service delivery and good governance. Also listed is the creation of a suitable framework for parliamentary oversight as well as a robust structure to include data protection and whistleblowing functions at minimum cost.

Officials said the merger will avoid government spending $661,000 to set up a police complaints authority and approximately $205,000 from the merger of the ICO and the OCC. This will be achieved by eliminating a post at the head of one of the entities and combining two administrative roles.

“These savings will fund the extra investigators required for investigations into police complaints. A reduction of $83,000in the overall government budgetary requirement is expected,” the deputy governor’s office stated.

Expecting to have the work for the project completed over the next few month’s officials said the new ombudsman’s office would be opened at the end of this year.

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Category: Government Finance, Government oversight, Politics

Comments (7)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This was low on the list of EY recommendations. I wonder what’s next?

  2. Just Watchin says:

    I agree Perry that there are several examples around the Commonwealth of the Ombudsman being responsible for both complaints about maladministration and access to information.
    Name me one country where the Ombudsman is also responsible for public complains against the police.

  3. Perry says:

    Wow I guess persons commenting here forgot to read the business case that has been published. It is by far the most Comprehensive document I have seen CIG produce in years.

    This merger is an excellent idea supported by facts and figures and is the norm world wide.

    Folks I urge to read the document before commenting.

  4. Anonymous says:

    No doubt this is another Genius interpretation of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009 by our highly regarded Attorney General That these two commissions established by section 120 and 122 can be magically combined to save money without any amendments to the Constitution.
    Sad day for Cayman democracy, check and balances, but great day for those in Government who would not rather be exposed.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Sounds good to me.

  6. Anonymous says:

    This government just doesn’t listen to anyone! Do as they wish – that’s Alden for ya!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Good work PPM. Keep on chipping away at the regulatory oversight and you will get your wish. MacMugabe running loose……

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