Cops join team creating supra-ombudsman’s office

| 01/07/2016 | 10 Comments
Cayman News Service

George Town Police Station

(CNS): Controversial plans by government to merge the Office of the Complaints Commissioner (OCC) with Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) are now focussed on the emergence of an independent police complaints element under the new supra-ombudsman. In a statement the chair of the project team, Peter Gough, revealed that representatives from the RCIPS Professional Standards Unit, which deals with complaints about the police, had joined staff from the other offices to begin shaping how the new ombudsman will operate. 

While merging police complaints with the office that deals will all other complaints about public authorities has been broadly welcomed, the decision to merge those offices with the entirely different functions of the information commissioner has raised a number of concerns.

However, in his statement Gough said that the new ombudsman’s office would retain the separate staff specialisms. He also said that a number of key decisions concerning the framework and operation of the new office had been made.

“There will be an overarching Ombudsman Law and consequential amendments to the Police Law, the Freedom of Information Law, the Complaints Commissioner Law and other related legislation,” Gough stated. “The merger will take place at a strategic level with sharing of corporate services. The investigation of police complaints, complaints about government’s administrative conduct, and freedom of information complaints will continue to be dealt with by specialist staff in each area. As such, investigators and analysts in each area will require different training and skill sets.”

Describing the proposed supra-ombudsman’s office as a “one stop shop”, he said people would be able to lodge a range of complaints at a single independent office.

“We believe that this is an important development, as among other benefits it will avoid persons who wish to make a complaint against the police having to visit a police station,” he stated.

Acting Commissioner of Police Anthony Ennis, who is now part of the project team, believes the creation of the office will improve public confidence in the RCIPS and reinforce the principle of police accountability. At present, people who want to complain about the police have to do so to the police, who then investigate themselves. Inevitably, there is little evidence that complaints are ever upheld and addressed and none of the outcomes are ever made public.

“By establishing an independent office that is accountable only to parliament to deal with public complaints against the police, we believe this project will assure the public of objective, unbiased investigation of complaints,” Ennis said.

As the civil service bureaucrats involved in the merging of these functions press on to create the new watchdog body, they are said to still be in the discussion and the fact-finding stages of the development process, reviewing laws and reaching out to similar offices in different jurisdictions, so it is not clear when the new office will emerge.

Both of the individuals in the information commissioner and complaints commissioner’s posts are currently acting in those roles. Jan Liebaers has been acting as the IC for two and a half years, while Bridgette von Gerhardt has acted as the CC for some 18 months.

As the proposed merger inches along Gough said the portfolio of the civil is working on a change management plan that will assist all stakeholders with the re-organisation process but officials have confirmed that no government employees will lose their jobs as part of the restructuring process.

The major concerns about the merger focus on the significant difference between the area of complaints and the area of freedom of information and the challenge that such a merger presents to the independence of the very separate entities. Government has justified the move by saying that it needed to create a police complaints commission and making it part of a larger ombudsman would be far cheaper than creating a separate and new authority.

However, the government has never explained why the police complaints could not simply be merged with the existing OCC, a logical and cost-saving measure, and has failed to explain why the ICO should be sucked into the merger.

The suggestion was one of several passing mentions in the EY report that the auditors had pointed to as possible actions that government could look at if it wanted to cut costs and improve efficiency. And while past and present experts at the two commissions both agreed that sharing a building and support staff may work well, the idea of an ombudsman that manages both functions was problematic.

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Category: Government oversight, Local News, Politics

Comments (10)

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  1. Soldier Crab says:

    “No government employees will lose their jobs….”
    So what is the point???

  2. Anonymous says:

    A lot of degenerate men think that if a woman is impaired by alcohol, it is an excuse to take advantage of her.
    This behavior is Satanic and downright evil.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’d assumed Peter Gough was entitled to work 5 years past the retirement age of 60 but he blew that assumption to pieces. I doubt the new 65+5 will legitimise him either. He needs to move on.
    How is it that so many indigenous Caymanians who reach 60 and who could still have offered the civil service much more have to move on but he stays.
    Merging the FoI and Complaints/Ombudsman is simply a case of the DG trying to score an “EY point” on something that got only a passing mention as there is no real value to it. And Peter Gough is the ‘costume maker’.

    • Anonymous says:

      Nasty personal comment, 11:54. You should direct your question about why Gough has stayed on to the “indigenous Caymanians” (to use your expression) who have offered him employment. But I agree with your comment about scoring an “EY point”. There is little of real worth in that report (despite David Legge’s obsession with it) since the Government has declined to implement some of the more sensible stuff from the get go, but at least it keeps Mary Rodriguez and some others out of trouble, beavering away on strategic initiatives, visioning and business planning on issues that will go nowhere and will be quietly abandoned (possibly as early as after the next election).

    • Anonymous says:

      11:54. Stop beng so jealous it is getting you no where. Time for a new approach. Try it you might get somewhere.

    • Anonymous says:

      The “costume maker” eh? Very sophisticated expression. Sounds like someone intelligent in Franz’s ministry where it is well known they are all ready to kill each other from jealous ambition.Or maybe one of these ex chief officers or Mac advisers who did little and who the civil service was glad to see retire because they had done nothing over the years except seat warm and pen push.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is not up to you,11:54, to say whether he should “move on” or not. It is up to his employer. There is no reason why any person cannot work on past retirement age. It is decided by essentially two things: does an employer wish to employ them past that age, presumably because they have proven skills and experience at actually getting things done? Are they physically and mentally fit for employment, something that is demonstrable by the passing of a medical examination? Some years back a Caymanian was employed in a government department until he was almost 80. Clearly, he satisfied both these requirements.

  4. Anonymous says:

    If people were kind to one another, we would not need so many police. Dear people of the Cayman Islands, please do no violence to anyone.

  5. Anonymous says:

    RCIPS PSU is a joke. How can they ever be party to an independent review body?

    This is just part of a general move to dumb down public accountability by public bodies.

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