Bermuda’s Ombudsman, Victoria Pearman, tabled her 2o16 annual report in the House of Assembly on Friday.

This latest report reiterated once again, the fact that for a third consecutive year, “the Land Title Registry Office remains closed to the public as a matter of grave concern”.

A statement released by the Ombudsman’s office said: “The total cost of setting up and running the office from 2005 has exceeded $11 million dollars. Eleven years later, it still not operational.”

The report also includes an update on how to deal with bank-related complaints, following discussions by the Ombudsman with the Bermuda Monetary Authority, and whether Consumer Affairs is the appropriate office to field complaints.

The 2016 report details the work and cases covered by the Office during the course of the calendar year, from January 1st to December 31st, 2016. The document was filed with the Speaker of the House at the end of June, but could not be released until Parliament had reconvened.

Others areas addressed in the report include the Treatment of Offenders Board, on filling the gaps in prison procedures on handling complaints by inmates.

Overall, Ms Pearman noted that the Ombudsman’s Office received 285 requests for assistance in 2016, with a total of 128 enquiries by people seeking information without making a complaint. During the course of the year, the office worked on a total of 355 cases.

Those cases include the ongoing investigation involving the Personal Services Section of the Department of Immigration to address the backlog caused by a significant increase in applications with no corresponding increase in staff.

Reflecting on her message that “building a bridge requires careful contemplation”, Ms Pearman stressed that those bridges must also be accessible.

“The work of our Office requires us first to be listeners,” she said. “Opportunities for alternative dispute resolution require that when people have complaints they are heard.”

While “bridging differences and disconnections between members of the public and the authorities whose job it is to serve them”, she said her office carries with it the responsibilities of “protecting people from unfair actions and bad administrative decisions”.

“When complainants bring matters to our attention, where necessary our Office adds volume to their voices to ensure they are heard and appropriate attention is given to them. Ombudsmen connect the parties and seek to build understanding and promote fairness.”

It was also noted that: “Sometimes being heard by an Authority is enough to resolve a complaint. Sometimes an apology is sufficient. The fair, unbiased handling of complaints we receive requires careful consideration of all sides.”

In that regard, the Office said: “We seek to improve discussions and clarify matters between competing issues. We aim to secure fair outcomes as we support positive change.”

The Ombudsman also thanked members of the public “who continue to entrust us with their complaints”. On that note, Ms Pearman said: “Complaints brought to our attention help us identify areas of general concern. I also thank those who work in various areas of the public service for their work, assistance and cooperation.”

  • The Report can be downloaded from www.ombudsman.bm, in addition to previous published reports
  • Limited copies will be available for the public at the office located at Dundonald Place, Suite 102, on Dundonald Street West in Hamilton
  • For more information, call 296-6541 or email [email protected]