Work is underway to combine a pair of government offices into an Ombudsman’s office. Supporters of the office say it will provide a central location to lodge complaints about government agencies and the RCIPS. The merger is touted as a way to increase efficiency and save money, though the business plan acknowledges not everyone agrees.
Project Head Peter Gough said, “It’s an agency to oversee government to ensure that any complaints that we have are properly dealt with.”
Currently there is the Complaints Commissioner’s office which deals with most complaints, while the Freedom of Information office investigates complaints and queries and then provides answers. There is also room for another complaints commission that would focus entirely on the police. Mr Gough says the merge will see both independent entities joining forces.
He told Cayman 27, “It’s essentially three functions coming together and two offices.” He added, “They’ll have one unit now, not three. So any member of the public that has a complaint they won’t have to decide, if it is a mal-administration complaint, or a FOI complaint or a police complaint. They will be able to go to one agency. So we are actually reducing the number of agencies we have in government.”
And while people will benefit from having one central location, the government will also save an estimated $900,000.
Mr. Gough said, “Well there is cost avoidance, which is about $700,000 if it was to set up an independent police complaints authority and the actual merger of the agency [would save] in the region of about $200,000.”
But the proposition has been met with opposition. A year ago, when the merger was first announced, the Acting Information Commissioner and the Former Information Commissioner shared their concerns that a government Ombudsman’s office would not be as politically independent as the current arrangement.