by Donella Hosten
The Office of the Ombudsman was first introduced to the Grenadian public service in 2009 as was guided by Act 24 of 2007, which provides details on the procedures to be followed by the office.
Former Cabinet Secretary to then Governor General, Anthony Agar Alexander OBE, JP served as Grenada’s first Ombudsman since Independence. He was appointed by former Prime Minister Hon Tillman Thomas. After Alexander’s term ended in 2013, Wilfred Hercules was appointed, followed by Raphael Donald in 2015. The late Nordica Mc Intyre also served, and was followed briefly by Ronnie Marryshow. Allison Miller is the current Acting Ombudsman since her appointment in August 2017.
Although the act states that the duration of the Ombudsman should be for 5 years, there are instances where acting appointments can be made in shorter time frames.
The NOW Grenada team held an exclusive interview with Miller, as she highlighted some of the main duties of the Ombudsman’s Office. She described the Office of the Ombudsman as the ‘watchdog for the Public Service,’ stating that they take complaints from persons who believe that they have been treated unfairly within the public service. This includes ‘maladministration, unreasonable delay, abuse of power, unfair procedures, negligence, discrimination, arbitrary unreasonable procedures [and] administrative actions contrary to the law.’
Speaking to the procedures which ought to be followed when filing a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman, Miller clearly indicated that persons can either call, email or walk into the office, then the Complaints Officer will take their details, after which, there will be an interview.
After this, depending on the matter(s) at hand, an official investigation or an inquiry is done to resolve the matter. If the parties are displeased with the ruling of the Ombudsman’s Office, the matter can be then taken to court. However, the matters can be settled outside of the court within the Ombudsman’s ruling.
The services offered by the Ombudsman’s Office are free of charge, and the investigations are funded by the state’s consolidated funds.
Although the Office of the Ombudsman stands as the lone office for public officers to officially lodge complaints about being mistreated etc, there are some matters that they cannot interfere with or meddle in. According to Miller, these matters include ‘private matters — meaning matters within the private sector, decisions by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding extradition [and] any decision of the Governor General concerning appointments, removal or disciplinary measures, …’
The questions of the number of cases and how quickly they are resolved by the Office of the Ombudsman, were also answered by Miller, who unfortunately was unable to provide statistics for the year 2016. For 2015 she revealed that there were approximately 96 complaints, some of which may have not been resolved in that same year.
“We try to solve them as quickly as possible, but as with everything else, we have to depend on public officers to help us,” she sai
Asked about how is the Ombudsman selected, Miller stated that this was done upon the agreement of both the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition. In this case where the country doesn’t have an official opposition, she believes that Senator Nazim Burke, Leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) would have been consulted.
Miller also used the opportunity to reiterate and reaffirm that the Office of the Ombudsman is ‘separate, distinct and independent of the Public Service and any political party.’ According to her, her office submits their reports to Parliament, and their plans for the year must be approved.