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Ombudsman facing 'increasingly complex complaints'

Arlene Brock: Published seven own motion reports while she was Ombudsman

The Ombudsman has revealed her office has received “increasingly complex complaints” about government maladministration over her time in charge.

Victoria Pearman, who earns almost $185,000 a year, was made Ombudsman for a five-year term in 2014 and was reappointed by the Governor for another three years in March 2019.

She has released annual reports but, so far, has not published any “own motion” investigative reports, in contrast to her predecessor Arlene Brock, who published seven between 2006 and 2014.

Own motion inquiries do not need a complaint from the public and are used to delve into matters of public interest that concern the provision of government services.

Ms Pearman said: “The office responds to over 200 cases each year, including complaints and enquiries, and we provide people the assurance this will be conducted confidentially and effectively.

“In the course of our complaint-handling work, we sometimes become aware of issues within the system itself – referred to as systemic issues – and improvements may be agreed upon with an authority.”

She added: “In recent years, complaint matters have become increasingly complex and, in some cases, this has affected the length of time to complete those complaint matters.

“This does differ from investigations made using the Ombudsman’s authority to initiate an investigation separate from a complaint, referred to as an ‘own motion’ investigation.

“Our progress in advancing some of our own motion investigations was mentioned in our last annual report and that work has continued, as has work on systemic issues arising as part of some complaint matters which are confidential.”

The own motion investigations mentioned in the last annual report included criminal injuries compensation, seniors at risk of abuse and bus cancellations, but none have been the subject of a full public report.

The Ombudsman said: “When people are uncertain and distressed and require assistance, our services are needed more than ever.

“The message we would like to give to the public is that the Office of the Ombudsman is available and we provide guidance if they do not know where to turn.”

* The Ombudsman can be contacted at 296-6541 or by e-mail to complaint@ombudsman.bm.