Immigration guilty of maladministration, OCC finds

| 08/07/2009

(CNS): The Immigration Department’s tardiness in giving a refund to a small business was beyond acceptable limits even by relaxed standards and amounted to maladministration, the Office of the Complaints Commissioner (OCC) found. And in a Special Report following an initial investigation, the OCC further found that the Immigration Department had not complied with a recommendation made by Complaints Commissioner Dr John Epp that properly documented refund requests should be paid by the department within 30 days.

The original investigation followed a complaint in September 2007 registered by a small business which had been waiting more than four months for the refund of a deposit of CI$2,000, according to a release from the OCC.

At that time of the investigation, the Immigration Law stated that employers had to deposit a sum of money with the Immigration Department to cover the possible repatriation of work permit holders and their dependents. This security deposit, which varied depending on the worker’s country of origin, was refundable once he or she departed the Cayman Islands.

Immigration processes request for all refunds, including those associated with work permit applications, while the Treasury Department generates the cheque for the Immigration to post.
While the complainant was refunded within the timeframe recommended by the Commissioner following his investigation, a second recommendation, that the department’s officer responsible for all refunds from Immigration be instructed to process those due within 30 days of properly documented requests, has not been complied with, the release said.

Refunds from the Immigration Department are certainly made, the OCC found, and there is an informal target of completing a least one batch of refund cheques each week. However, according to the OCC, there are no consequences for inefficient service, and there appears to be a laissez-faire attitude built into the system. Responsible governance should have expectations and targets clearly stated, and it is the view of the OCC that these targets should accord with its recommendation.

The monitoring of the second recommendation began in December 2007. The OCC granted the Immigration Department a six-month period with which to comply with the recommendation, after which an audit, involving interviews and a review of documents and records, would establish compliance.

The OCC monitored a sample of 37 requests (out of a total of 350) made during May 2008, representing about 10% of the total for the month. When they returned on 13 August, only 10 (27%) had been processed within 30 days, while the slowest had taken 72 days.

OCC staff also looked at temporary work permits for the month of June 2008. Even though such refunds were supposedly processed much quicker, thanks to the use of a different system, only 80 (66.7%) of the 120 refund requests were processedwithin 30 days. The largest timeframe for such cases was 52 days.

The reasons given as to why refunds were taking so long included the existence of a multi-source intake framework; a complex refund process; the use of aged and imperfect software; difficulties interacting with Treasury; the Department’s workload volume and working conditions in general; the complexity of the job; a lack of resources; and the lack of clearly stated internal performance targets.

However, the OCC found that it was unacceptable that such a state of affairs had been allowed to exist.

While the accounting system uses a complex programme (IRIS), which can be unavailable from time to time and which can crash in the middle of the entry of data for a cheque batch order, such technical problems should not be considered as a major contributory factor to refund delays, the OCC found. Similarly, the process of assessing and approving a refund was in need of redesigning. In addition, the OCC did not accept that the Financial Department was short staffed, but if so, it should take action to fill the post of Accounts Officer.

A draft copy of this report was given to Chief Immigration Officer for his comment in the event that he took issue with any of the findings of fact or conclusion, but no response was received.
“In accordance with the Complaints Commissioner Law, if we find that inadequate action has been taken to carry out the recommendation of this Office, a special report must be laid before the Legislative Assembly,” explained Epp.

“It is particularly disappointing that there was little effort to comply with our recommendations. The work of this Office provides government departments with an opportunity to improve their service to the public, which should be the aim of all department heads. Cooperation with our investigation is in the best interest of both the public and department staff,” Dr Epp added.

The OCC is located on the 2nd floor, 202 Piccadilly Centre, Georgetown, Grand Cayman, phone number (345) 943 2220. The website is www.occ.gov.ky.

 

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Comments (3)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    2014 NO work permit refund. I have been waiting since November 16th 2013 for a work permit refund. I have made numerous calls to hear that they are 'working on it".

    How can i pay my other government debts, if i cant receive something that is rightful due to me?

     

  2. ironside says:

    There is this level, if not worse, of tardiness in many areas of government, for instance, national roads authority, the complaints department of the police, the legal department, environmental health,  etc etc… it seems that these entities operate with little or no accountability. If they are dealing with a local, then someone’s cousins uncles cousins aunty’s cat ‘deals with the complaint’, or if it’s an expat, well, they (the govt) just don’t give a s**t, and assume that the noisy foreigner will just leave, or be too scared to call them to task…

    who hurts? cayman hurts, that’s who.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Oh, please Epp picked and chose what he wanted to investigate. There were a number of areas of far greater significance that he simply declined to investigate. Hopefully the new CC will be an improvement.