(CNS): The government has begun its search for a multi-talented ombudsman that has experience in police and other public sector complaints, dealing with whistleblowing protection, as well as freedom of information and data protection. Whoever gets the top civil service job could earn more than $130,000 per year plus benefits. The deadline for applications is 30 April and adverts for the post are appearing in the local press. The job is described as a “a senior public official, charged with monitoring public administration through the examination and investigation of complaints”.
But the person will also have responsibility for “investigating and resolving complaints of maladministration, public complaints against the police and dealing with freedom of information appeals”. The post holder will also be responsible for overseeing whistleblower and data protection legislation.
Looking for candidates with a proven track record of “significant and high-level professional achievements”, applicants must have at least ten years post-graduate experience at senior management level in the public service or in a legal-judicial institution, according to the official description.
As the Legislative Assembly drew to a close last month, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson steered through the necessary legislation to pave the way for the supra-ombudsman’s office, though he avoided responding to queries from the member for East End that David Baines, the former police commissioner, had already been tipped to take the post.
But whoever gets the job, the decision by government to merge the Office of the Complaints Commissioner and the Information Commissioner’s Office has not been without its controversies.
While the merging of an independent police complaints commission with the existing complaints commission seems logical, it is still hard to see the connection with freedom of information and data protection, which was always intended to merge with the ICO.
Jennifer Dilbert, the first information commissioner, and Jan Liebaers, who has been acting commissioner for more than three years, have both aired their concerns about the merger, as did former complaints commissioner Nicola Williams. All of them agreed that the functions were so different that it was hard to see the benefits but the potential disadvantages were clear, with cuts in the budgets of what are already seen as underfunded offices.
Despite the objections from the professionals in the relevant fields, government has pressed ahead with the merger but will be retaining deputy ombudsmen to head up the various different functions. Give the additional salary of the ombudsman it’s hard to see where the cost savings will be for the public purse, which was the primary justification by government for the merger.
During his presentation of the relevant laws last month, Manderson said that the teams dealing with the different functions would remain so little would change in the day-to-day running of the offices. But Liebaers has confirmed that with the end of his current three-year contract next month, he has only been given a twelve month renewal.
For more information about the job or to apply go to the government recruitment website here