In just four years of its existence, the Cayman Islands Ombudsman Office has established itself as a trustworthy point of referral and resolution for persons seeking redress from the government and its agencies.
The Office of the Ombudsman was established by The Ombudsman Law, 2017 with the power and authority to investigate complaints of government maladministration.
It was created out of an amalgamation of the previous Office of the Complaints Commissioner, which dealt with maladministration issues, and the Information Commissioner’s Office, which handled Freedom of Information appeals.
The new office was given the added responsibilities of investigating citizen complaints against police, data protection complaints and whistle-blower complaints.
In its 2019 report, it speaks of “a year of significant growth and accomplishment”.
It says it added significant capacity during the year, enabling it to respond more robustly to data protection and maladministration complaints, both of which increased during 2019.
"The office has also managed to work through a daunting number of backlogged public complaints against the RCIPS, where a total of 144 historical matters initially brought to the RCIPS under a previous version of the Police Law have been resolved.”
It’s an impressive achievement particularly over such a short space of time.
The Office of the Ombudsman projects itself as “the official guardians of fairness and transparency in the Cayman Islands.”
It says it can help with resolving complaints about Government decisions and unfair treatment by Government, investigating complaints about police misconduct, protecting whistle-blowers, ensuring information rights and Government transparency.
It’s important and necessary that the Office of the Ombudsman is independent; answerable only to the Cayman Islands Legislature through a parliamentary sub-committee.
That is an important level of oversight as it shows that despite its independence, even the Office of the Ombudsman is subject to scrutiny while it projects itself as a paragon of the very transparency it is mandated by legislation to uphold.
Within the scope of its mandate - limited though some might suggest - the Office of the Ombudsman’s performance has been exemplary so far, and it has the record of outcomes to back that up.
The number and range of issues it's tackling on behalf of people coming forward is further testament to that.
Proof of its success is not only in its growing record of success in following up on valid complaints and attaining satisfactory outcomes.
That people feel empowered to approach the Ombudsman over matters which directly affect them or are of wider community concern is further testament of the success and need for the Ombudsman.
Where people have a channel to seek redress without having to resort to legal challenges in the first instance, is a reflection of a functioning democracy and society where citizens rights are paramount.
We concur with Sandy Hermiston, Head of the Office of the Ombudsman when she says they are “now firing on all cylinders”.
Long may it continue to do so.