Arbitrary Behaviour in the Public Service

by Linda Straker

The majority of complaints lodged with the office of the Ombudsman have little to do with political operators — and rest on the shoulders of the administrators in the public service. This is the view of Grenada’s second Ombudsman, Ray Donald.

“Sadly, the Office of the Ombudsman encountered instances of maladministration brought about by absolute pettiness, personal frictions and arbitrary behaviour which ought not to be present in a professional environment,” said the Ombudsman in the 2014 report, which was recently tabled in the House of Representatives.

Pointing out that it is almost 20 years since attempts to introduce modern management practices in the Public Sector, Donald said that despite the many transformative activities that have happened over the years, there are significant pockets of outmoded behaviour within the public sector.

According to the report, there were about 100 cases brought to the attention of the Ombudsman in 2014. The Ombudsman’s role is to provide protection for all the people, and to shield them from injustice and unfairness in their dealings with public authority. The departments topping the list are: Education, with 10 matters filed against it; 9 against the Police; 7 each against the Ministries of Labour, Social Security, and Agriculture; and 5 against the Ministry of Finance and Planning.

The report indicated that there is an urgent need for a more responsive and humane administrative staff in the public sector, because the behaviour of some officers is among the complaints coming from those who are seeking the assistance of the Office of the Ombudsman.

“Frustrations arise when signals are sometimes inadvertently sent to citizens and staff, that no one cares or there should be no haste in responding to concerns,” said the report in the section which focuses on analysis of complaints.

The highest number of complaints was recorded against private entities, which amounted to 26 of the 100 complaints received in 2014. The report said that although the matters were outside of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction, it was felt that these persons needed an avenue to vent their grievances and frustration in confidentiality, so he listened and was able to advise how they could proceed, or to whom they could go for assistance. Some of these include a matter against a ruling by a judge; lawyers for receiving money and not handling the matters for the client, and refusal to pay rent.

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