CIG staff fob off complainers

| 09/07/2014

(CNS): Although the complaints commissioner believes things have improved considerably in the civil service complaints system, the failure of public servants to respond in a timely manner, or even at all, is still a major problem for government staff. Ten years after the Complaints Commissioner's officer (OCC) was created to oversee and deal with complaints about the service the public receives at the hands of government agencies and their employees, Nicola Williams said all public authorities have a formal complaints procedure in place but when departments don’t respond to people’s concerns and complaints, or fob them off, it is not just frustrating for the complainant but it is in breach of the constitution.

Although it may seem like a small thing, Williams said, when complainants are ignored small complaints can escalate into much larger ones. She said the original infraction may not be much but it soon balloons into something more serious when a complainant is fobbed off.

Under the 2009 Constitution and the Bill of Rights government workers have a lawful obligation to deal fairly and promptly with concerns and complaints raised about how the public is treated when accessing government services. When complaints are ignored and not dealt with promptly and fairly, civil servants are breaking the law.

Reluctant to name the worst offenders, Cayman’s second commissioner said there were two departments that cause the most concerns and where there is a long way to go before they could be considered as coping with and properly handling complaints. However, Williams was quick to celebrate the massive improvements seen at immigration, which she said is no longer the office’s most complained about entity.

At one time immigration complaints dominated the office’s workload, the commissioner said, but now, while there are still complaints coming to her office about the experiences people have there, it is no longer the worst offender.

As the OCC celebrates is tenth birthday this month, Williams said things have evolved since the creation of the office in 2004 as she and her team focus a lot more on training, regulating and monitoring the internal complaints procedure now in place across government departments. While they still get hundreds of people complaining to the office on an annual basis, by the time they reach Williams' team the complaints are usually much more serious and complex as the complainants have already been through an internal complaints procedure.

Not unlike the experiences of the Information Commissioner’s Office, Williams reported that her main concerns are the attempts public authorities make to stall and delay her staff when they attempt to investigate where things have gone wrong or when the researchers are conducting own motion investigations on behalf of the commissioner.

Williams said that she believes that no civil servant goes to work wanting to make someone’s life a misery but that it can happen when the complaints made to them are not properly dealt with.

While her office now spends a good deal of time training and has seen that pay off with public sector workers becoming more aware of the need to prevent complaints in the first place, Williams said the civil service heads of department also need to play their part. She said it was important that public sector bosses ensure that the staff they supervise are equipped and capable of doing the job that they are in place to perform and that that they understand the responsibilities they have to cut down on complaints.

With the budget for 2014/15 just recently passed, the commissioner said she welcomed the increase in her office’s budget but noted that the financing was still almost 30% down on its original funding. Like all government departments, the office funding has been cut year on year with each successive round of spending plans until this budget year.

For the first time in many years, Williams said, the office reached a staff of six but it is still not enough to cover the workload as effectively as she said she would like. The commissioner bragged that she has become something of an expert in the field of international complaints commissioners for doing so much on so little. She said she has spoken at a number of conferences on, ironically given the title of her damning report on the state of the country’s pension system, “penny pinching”.

Despite the many challenges however, Williams said there was much to celebrate over the last ten years and this week the team was on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman not only to mark the end of its first decade but to offer those on the Sister Islands an opportunity to raise any concerns they mayhave about the service they receive from government entities.

Returning to Grand Cayman Thursday, the office at Anderson Square will be hosting an open house event and on Thursday evening will be celebrating the launch of a new small claims handbook.

Category: Local News

Comments (27)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    You cant expect better The CS people dont make enough money to really give a crap about how much they suck They are all miserable underpaid workers with low morale.

    Before you scream at my post realise even if a CS is making 5k a month it is not enough with the cost of living in cayman.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Complainers are ignored in every business or industry, not just public sector. When was the last time CUC or LIME took your advice?

  3. Michel says:

    A response back is rare in a timely matter if at all. It happens with quite a few Elected members very often.

  4. Anonymous says:

    How about a points system? If a civil servant is reported to the Complaints Commissioner (and proven to be in breach of the Constitution) a file is started on them. Warning letters followed by termination for repeat offenders would cut civil service numbers in no time and get rid of those "job  for life" people who give all civil servants a bad name. 

  5. Anonymous says:

    To add insult to injury, these Civil Service workers got a 2.5% bonus last month. Granted very few might in fact deserve it but that ratio is slim to none.

    • Florence Goring-Nozza, D.Div. says:

      So control over the private sector school system as govt turns the reigns over to the private schools that will ask for millions annuallyce in  andnot held  accountable for anything? Tara sorry I gave you so much credit but this is a huge mistake that can cost you being elected in the future.It could end your political career. I do not blieve that this is your original idea, it just can,t be!

  6. Anonymous says:

    The entire public service sector in the Cayman Islands is a big dysfunctional mess; core Government departments, public Authorities, government companies – all of them! There are dedicated respectful and efficient employees but they are in the minority by far. The majority is comprised of underqualified, over-promoted, disrespectful, immature, unprofessional personnel who work by two "ethics" only – entitlement mentality and favour.

     

    This is the legacy of the actions of successive Governments (by and large – a few good politicians chose to retire from the sick system) ever since the tide changed in the 1976 elections which introduced the decline of quality, values and ethics, introduced political influence, corruption and ineptness in the public service and the defiant attitudes of those guilty of these negative factors who believe that they're right (or simply couldn't care). It is evident in every public sector service – education, public health, public administration, public safety and is getting worse because the offenders are being protected because of their corrupt commercial ties and/or their secret society connections!! It extends from top to bottom!!

     

     

    • Anonymous says:

      That was perfect

    • Anonymous says:

      The exclusion of much of the population from voting and the divisive concentration of power in "established Caymanians" was the real start of the decline.  It paved the way for corrupt crooks lie Jim Bodden to manipulate power for financial gain.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I deal with several govt. departments on a daily basis and can honestly say its the worst part of my job.  Whilst there are several excellent employes, the rest are ignorant, rude and plain ridiculous.  Don't bother complaining because it only gets worse and you are then the target for their bad moods.  We all have issues or things about our employers that are difficult to deal with but I can't take it out on my clients, so why do I have to put up with constant rudeness, ignorance and incompetence and pay for it????

  8. Anonymous says:

    "the failure of public servants to respond in a timely manner, or even at all…" this applies to MLA's, Chief Officers, Top Management, Bottom Management, Management who nah Management, what a bloody joke! unny lookya, soon come.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Guess we have all read of the Louisanas Governor who got 10yrs imprisonment for bribery. There seem to be so many here from various walks of life that just seem to be lucky.Starting from the top to the boards and the various places, Spending Government monies to for self gain should be a part of it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just for the record, it was Ray Nagin, former mayor of New Orleans, who has just got 10 years in the slammer. He became best known following Hurricane Katrina.

      • Anonymous says:

        And I bet he was investigated mainly because of his criticism of George W. Bush's handling of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in N.O.

         

        Why have Bush and Cheney not been tried for War Crimes for lying to the American people about the reasons they went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Its a joke with everything in cayman that government workers has to deal with have fun making a complaint I know how to solve my problems when I get them.the old caymanian way of life.

  11. Anonymous says:

    But who shall guard the guards? I have massive complaints about the way i have been treated by staff at both the the Information Officers Office (a really rude female civil servant) and also the Complaints Commissioner's Office.

  12. Anonymous says:

    It is hoped that while on the Brac that they sorted out the closure of the Labour office. There is no Labour, Pension or NWDA representation in the Brac for over 3 months. It is a disservice to those of us living and working there that we cannot get assistance. No use saying call the Grand Cayman office as they never answer the phone, they don't return calls and the people in the Brac do not know the name of anyone to ask for as thevoice mail requests. Why are we not getting the service we deserve.

    • Anonymous says:

      But then, you see, without a labour officer in place the abuses can continue unabated. We seem to be more lawless the further east we go (West Bay excepted, of course).

    • Anonymous says:

      But isnt that a blessing in disguise? Without a labour office to complain to, just go to the Social Services and collect a cheque to do nothing all month long. That's how it works in Grand.., and we HAVE a Labour Department!

       

      Every cloud has a silver lining my friend. Go get your SS cheque, buy a six pack, and go chill by the dock and wait for the barge to come in

  13. Anonymous says:

    Another day $ame $hit service from top to bottom. It is an expensive me$$

  14. Anonymous says:

    Nothing has changed the management of Civil Service is a clique of old boys club members and freemasons that cover up for each other. There is no one interested in accountability. The Deputy Governor is a large part of the problem just pretty speeches no substance 

    • Anonymous says:

      When good hardworking civil Servants bring matters to his attention he just sweeps it under the rug

      • Anonymous says:

        "good hardworking civil Servants" is that an oxymoron?

        • JTB says:

          I have never come across a single "good, hard-working" Cayman civil servant.

          At the moment I am dealing with an issue where I have been trying to get a response (just. A response, not a particular decision) out of CIG for 9 months and they are just ignoring me.

          in the real world these people would not last a day before being fired.

    • Anonymous says:

      Franz is firmly part of the problem rather than part of the solution.