No complaints process in key departments

| 09/07/2009

(CNS): An audit by the Office of the Complaints Commissioner determined that for six government entities a failure to establish an effective internal complaints process (ICP) amounted to maladministration. It made this ruling against the Department of Employment Relations, the Planning Department, the Royal Cayman Islands Police, the Immigration Department, the Ministry of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Tourism. In all, the OCC found that 22 government entities did not have a formal ICP, while the DoER, the DoT, the Legislative Department and the Planning Department had no ICP at all.

Nevertheless, the audit of the ICPs of 76 government entities revealed that since the inception of efforts to encourage government entities to develop and implement ICPs there has been a significant increase and improvement in customer complaints processes.

An effective ICP is a process by which complaints against an organization are received, investigated and resolved in an orderly manner. Maintaining an effective ICP is essential for an organization to capture and utilize information about what customers are feeling, experience and expect from an organization. A formal ICP includes a documented procedure that the organization follows when processing a complaint. In some cases an informal ICP can be effective.

In 2005, the OCC launched a project to determine which government entities had a formal or informal process through which they received and addressed any concerns of the public they served. Each entity was surveyed and asked to say if they had established a formal or informal ICP. There have been three such surveys which in turn produced three reports – one in 2006, another in 2007 and the most recent in 2008.

In June 2008, in order to judge for itself whether the entities had indeed established ICPs and whether they were formal or informal and effective or ineffective, the OCC declared an Own Motion Investigation. The report on this investigation, “Do government entities hear their customers? An audit of their Internal Complaints Processes”, was tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Friday 3 July 2009.

This audit confirmed that while the majority of the 76 entities audited had formal ICPs, 22 entities did not, despite the OCC’s efforts to guide them in establishing one. Some of these entities have a high volume of interaction with the public while others almost none.

The OCC found that the Department of Employment Relations, the Department of Tourism, the Legislative Department and the Planning Department had no ICP at all. The Cinematographic Authority and the Public Health Services both have their complaints addressed through the ICPs of their associated bodies.

The following entities had informal ICPs: Cayman Islands Postal Service, Cayman Islands Stock Exchange, Department of Children and Family Services, Department Counseling Services, District Administration, Elections Office, HM Prison Service, Immigration Department, Lands and Survey Department , Mosquito Research and Control Unit, National Housing and Development Trust, Portfolio of Finance and Economics, Radio Cayman, and UCCI, as well as the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, the Ministry of District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing, and the Ministry of Health and Human Services.

In the cases of maladministration, the OCC found that the Department of Employment Relations had previously had a formal ICP but had subsequently abandoned it and had not replaced it with an effective formal or informal ICP.

The Planning Department did not have a formal or informal ICP and officers were not able to provide clear information as to who handled complaints or how they are handled. It admitted to receiving complaints, but was unable to verify how many or how they were actioned.

The RCIP admitted that although it had a formal ICP and a Professional Standards Unit to address complaints, its system did not function properly. It admitted to needing to overhaul its ICP and that it had began work on that process.

The Immigration Department was found to have an informal ICP but the public was denied access to the process through the Immigration frontline staff, who were found to be blocking people from filing complaints. The Immigration process also failed to meet reasonable timelines.

The Ministry of Health and Human Services admitted to not having an ICP. It acknowledged the importance of having an ICP and committed to taking action to create a formal ICP for its Ministry. The Department of Tourism admitted that it did not have an ICP and also committed to establishing one as quickly as possible.

The OCC reported that it has experienced a drop in the number of complaints made against government entities, which the Office believes is due partly to the improvements to operating procedures in many government entities, including ICPs, and partly to the existence and influence of the OCC.

“The first three reports were based on the surveys of the government entities,” said Complaints Commissioner Dr John Epp. “This investigation, however, was an objective assessment of the claims made in the 2008 survey and is therefore an accurate reflection of the levels of preparedness of government entities to process complaints.”

Through the course of this investigation, the OCC recognized that while the majority of government entities have implemented an ICP, a continued effort is required by many to ensure that the public is encouraged to make complaints using these processes.

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

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  1. Annoymous says:

    This is not new news, the Complaints Commissioners office is just digging up bones.  This is the case in all Govt. depts.  What else is new.

    The fact that there is no reporting for Civil Servants to report on  their bosses is not new news.  This was never put in place to begin with.  The current Director of Labour found this out the minute he came into office when he received complaints from civil servants.  There never was any internal reporting for many depts. because none was ever set up.

    Give me a break.  We have more important issues affecting us right now instead of a disgruntled Complaints Commissioner digging up bones.  What we need to resolve is the complaints that people have submitted about the RCIP.  That’s important and why is it that the OCC keeps directing people to the RCIP to handle the matter?  Sounds fishy to me.

    If your office is for people to report on a specific Govt. dept. then deal with it don’t refer it.  That’s called passing the buck or avoiding the issue.


  2. Anonymous says:

    That’s a bit of a worry that there is an inadequate internal complaints procedure even at the Department of Employee relations – messy.