Although the Office of the Ombudsman closed its Anderson Square office to the public on 16 March to help prevent the spread of COVID 19, our services have continued uninterrupted. The office has continued to be fully operational with employees working full-time from home, receiving rerouted calls and emails and responding as if they were in the normal work environment.
The office, formed in 2017, handles government maladministration complaints, public and private sector whistleblower complaints, public complaints against police officers, data protection complaints and freedom of information appeals.
“Dealing with the impact of Cayman’s COVID-19 response has been stressful for the entire community and, to this point, the public sector has handled the delicate balancing act needed to protect our residents very well,” said Sandy Hermiston, Cayman Islands Ombudsman. “Despite these efforts, members of the public may still have issues that require our review and need someone to contact for assistance. We’re here to help.”
Our maladministration investigators have responded to public complaints about immigration matters, public welfare assistance, complaints from the prison and even some concerns about ‘curfew time’ exemptions. Our police investigation unit is currently conducting investigations into a few high-profile pursuit incidents that occurred in recent weeks.
Our data protection analysts have received an increased number of queries about privacy protection issues, which are perhaps even more of a concern during these times. Our freedom of information team is in close contact with government information managers to ensure that requests for information are being addressed in a timely fashion. They are continuing to move appeals along as usual.
All staff teams are meeting daily via live video chats to discuss cases and the office holds a weekly all-staff meeting to ensure everyone’s work is progressing and to check in with each other.
“The curfew restrictions have led to a necessary curtailing of public freedoms - for a limited period - to protect people’s health and welfare,” Ms. Hermiston said. “That does not mean the concepts of human rights, personal privacy, the right to information and the need for proper public sector administration in a democratic society have been abandoned. We need to continue our work, remaining as open and accessible as possible to the public, to help ensure these important rights continue to be guarded.”
“We understand that this is not “business as usual” and we will be taking the current crisis into account when assessing timeliness of responses, where appropriate and permitted” according to Ms. Hermiston.
The Ombudsman also applauded the entire public sector’s commitment, as well as the work of local media outlets, in providing as much information to residents as possible during this unusual period through a variety of means, including a daily press briefing, websites and social media.
“Cayman’s overall response to the COVID-19 situation to date is impressive and I am proud of my staff members’ efforts to seamlessly transition their work, and their lives, in order to keep responding to concerns from the public,” Ms. Hermiston said.
If you would like to contact us, please call us at 946-6283 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, be safe, be kind and be well.
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