Maladministration occupies ombudsman

| 03/08/2020 | 22 Comments

(CNS): The Office of the Ombudsman has reported that maladministration by some civil servants is dominating its work, which now covers a range of issues, from data protection to whistleblowing. The oversight body, which was created in September 2017 following the merger of the offices of the information and complaints commissioners, handled 393 enquiries last year. Complaints about public service and the police took up the bulk of the workload.

In the ombudsman’s annual report for last year, which was made public when it was tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, also showed that the office handled a huge number of data protection enquiries regarding the new law, which came into effect in September. Data protection queries boosted inquiries to the office by 60% compared to 2018.

However, it was complaints about maladministration across government and complaints about the police, both new and a “daunting number of backlogged public complaints against the RCIPS”, that kept investigators busy.

The office focused on tackling the backlog of the 144 historical cases regarding the RCIPS that the ombudsman had inherited, but 62 new complaints were also filed this year and 67 carried forward from 2018. But just two police investigators managed to handle these new cases while at the same time clearing up the old ones, resolving 105 complaints.

In a press release about the report, Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston said that the office continues to encounter challenges across government over the general understanding of the maladministration complaints process.

She said many departments and ministries or portfolios still do not have a formal internal complaints process for members of the public to use.
“The lack of such policies can cause confusion and delay when complainants come to our office for assistance,” Hermiston added.

The complaints arm of the ombudsman’s office is one of the oldest of its oversight roles, as that office and law came into force back in 2004. Although public sector entities have had 16 years to get used to the need to address complaints, one of the most common concerns is the length of time some take to respond.

“Unreasonable conduct, as defined in the Complaints (Maladministration) Law, includes delay and non-response,” the report states. “We are working with many areas of government to ensure appropriate acknowledgements and response times are in place. This issue will remain a focus of our office as poor communication is a leading frustration for the public in dealing with government.”

The report included in a number of summaries of cases that were resolved by the office. In one of them a complainant reported to the ombudsman that they were still waiting for the outcome of a Labour Appeals Tribunal hearing held in May 2011. Because it had been so long, the ombudsman made the tribunal redo the case, so eight years after the first hearing they issued a decision, bringing the matter to a close.

With a number of issues surrounding maladministration and the failure to address complaints, the office said it is focused on helping the public sector respond more effectively and to address specific concerns. An early resolution structure implemented last year has contributed to improved file management and reduced timelines in many cases.

In addition to some complex investigations stemming from complaints, as well as police conduct and freedom of information appeals, which reached a record dozen hearings last year, the office also tackled dozens of enquiries about data protection.

“Analysts have also noted there are still some significant gaps in understanding of the Data Protection Law on the part of individuals and businesses around the islands, which the Ombudsman is helping to address via public education and outreach efforts,” the office added.

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See the full report in the CNS Library

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Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (22)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I can’t even imagine the working conditions for hundreds of government workers who would have to follow, or pretend to be following, stated policies, receive training on latest governance policies, sit and listen to heads stressing these things in meetings, but then be told in hushed voices, or by conflicting stern memo, to disregard or help coverup entire departments of maladministration, embezzlement, and fraud, or loose their jobs/lives. There must be hundreds of employees who have to wrestle with this conflict every single day. I guess I never thought about that before. I’m sure they would welcome improvements to governance that would clarify their purpose, and give them some pride and satisfaction at work.

  2. Anonymous says:

    How about a government that defrauds KYD$3.4mln from the public purse, in one calendar year, fighting their own people on a port project they had no authority to approve or proceed with, and looses another KYD$1.1mln to an elections office that held no referendum?!? We need deep and invasive investigations of all involved. Don’t just turn the page Cayman.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ombudsperson, what is this, 1972?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Go Ms. Hermiston!! Hope you don’t get the rug pulled out from under you for doing your job! God bless.

  5. Proudcivilservant says:

    A staggeringly low number of complaints and justifies the vision of a world class civil service.

    Most of the complaints centers around the Operation of the tribunals staffed by the private sector. It really is time to get rid of these private sector boards (Offreg) and tribunals (labour) they just don’t work.

    The same number of complaints made against the public service last year are made on a monthly basis to CUC and the telecoms companies.

    Forget the banks and insurance companies.

    I can’t imagine how the private sector would operate with FOI, a procurement law and good governance requirements.

    • Anonymous says:

      The key is that it is my choice to use a private sector business. I have no say in how CIG spends the money I send them.

  6. Neverwannabeacivilservant says:

    How can our world class civil service respond to complaints when they are never aware of them as they never answer the phone?.

    • Proudcivilservant says:

      4:59. Old news. Call the civil service tomorrow.

      • Neverwannabeacivilservant says:

        6.46pm For starters try calling the National Roads Authority, amongst many others.This is old news it’s been going on for decades and still is.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I wish they’d take up my complaint against Digicel and their endless spam texts for crap like BiP messenger. I have followed the instructions to opt out literally dozens of times and it clearly is a sham because they keep coming – a clear and direct breach of the Data Protection Law.

  8. Anonymous says:

    When is the post offices in The Brac will be open. Stake Bay P O is still closed to the public an the main one at W E is o my open Tuesdays, Wednesday an Thursdays from 9 until 1 pm, just lazy people getting full wages for half work or no work at all

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes! And on Grand they are open Tues-Fri 9-3 .. what about the rest of us who cannot make it there because we are actually working! Why arent they open on saturdays?????

  9. Anonymous says:

    what do you expect?…
    when cig refuses to implement any recommendation from the many damning reports that have been carried out into the civil service.

  10. Anonymous says:

    another glorious day for our world-class civil service….
    even thought the private sector is now being decimated by covid….there have been no lay-offs or reductions in pay at the civil service and many of them still at home doing little or nothing.
    just another day in wonderland…

    • Anonymous says:

      When will the SMB post office open? No excuse for them not to return & open up with everyone wearing masks.

      • Anonymous says:

        We are covid free for 3 weeks – why are they still only open tues-fri 9-3 while the rest of us are working regular hours and struggle to get there because they are closed on saturdays! Who thought these hours were convenient for the general public????

      • Anonymous says:

        taking the Piss and getting over paid for it??

  11. Anonymous says:

    The Ombudsman’s office needs to be properly staffed and funded if we are ever to have full-execution of remit, timely justice, and any semblance of value for money from CIG. One of the many top-of-the-list governance problems.

    • Anonymous says:

      It also needs to effectively protect complainants. They are thrown under the bus (or barred from boarding it, literally).

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