The Office of the Ombudsman is expected to be filled soon. State Minister Joseph Harmon has revealed that Government will be making an announcement to this effect by the end of April.
“We’re still in the process of identifying that person, and we believe that by the end of April we will be in a position to make that announcement,” Harmon told reporters at last week’s post-Cabinet press briefing at the Ministry of the Presidency.
This pronouncement by the State Minister comes months after he had said that Government would have appointed a new Ombudsman within the first quarter of 2017. At the time, he had noted that the appointment requires “careful consideration” and consultations with the Opposition Leader, in accordance with the law.
“I can say to you that, in fact, we are looking at several persons: which ones we have basically decided on, what are the names of the persons we are likely to put up; but we would have to discuss that with the Leader of the Opposition, and to get his ‘buy in’ on it,” Harmon had stated.
The last Ombudsman, Justice Winston Moore, died in September 2016. He had been appointed to the position in January 2014. The ombudsman’s office is an independent, impartial body providing free services in investigating complaints that haven’t been solved by an organisation or public body against which the complaint is directed. The role of the ombudsman is also to investigate complaints of cases that have been handled badly or unfairly by another agency, thereby making someone suffer as a result.
Minister Harmon told reporters on Thursday last that Government is also looking to fill the chairmanship of the Police Complaints Authority. It was revealed back in January that outgoing Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), Justice Cecil Kennard, had been asked to step down from the post because of his age. While his termination letter was dated December 31, 2016, Justice Kennard had requested, and was given, additional time on the job to wrap up his unfinished work. He is expected to officially step down by this month end.
Minister Harmon has further outlined that Government wants to fill several other public service posts that are vacant, including that of the Public Service Appellate Tribunal, which he noted has been languishing for many years under the previous administration.
“We’re looking to ensure that that body is also activated, because in the absence of that, public servants who want to challenge their dismissals and so on have to engage in the expensive process of going to the High Court, and in many cases, the system does not produce the kind of results that they are looking for in a very timely manner,” he noted.
The State Minister noted that these and other appointments are on the front burner of the current administration, and all these issues are expected to be addressed very shortly.