Victoria Pearman, Ombudsman for Bermuda

The Office of the Ombudsman for Bermuda handled a total of 309 cases last year, “including 166 new complaints, 98 new enquiries” with 45  “outstanding complaints that remained open as of January 1, 2018”.

Details are contained in the Ombudsman’s Annual Report 2018, due to be tabled in the House of Assembly on Friday (June 21).

Ombudsman Victoria Pearman urged “members of the public, stakeholders and the media” to “read and consider the report”.

“I heartily welcome questions and encourage your responses,” she said.

Highlights on the work carried out during the course of the past year included:

  • opening a systemic investigation into delays in hearing applications by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, which has been affecting the timeliness of victims of crimes receiving compensation
  • progressed an investigation into the adequacy of the Government’s communication about public bus cancellations and delays
  • progressed the systemic investigation into senior abuse reporting and provides the Office’s first detailed update in this report
  • continued to follow-up with the Bermuda Monetary Authority on consumer banking issues oversight and provides another update on those ongoing efforts; and
  • continued to discuss with the Bermuda Hospitals Board its progress on implementing previous recommendations made. The implementation of a centralised BHB e-mail system to include community physicians was completed in 2018 – an initiative which will benefit users of King Edward VII Memorial Hospital’s emergency department

“Last month during the opening of the Caribbean Ombudsman Association’s conference, which my Office hosted at Fairmont

Southampton, I remarked about the critical role of the ombudsman institution.

“The Ombudsman offers a corrective to what some despair may be a new normal where principles of fairness and justice may seem under siege. It supports accountability to uphold that governments are working in the public interest and are communicating meaningfully with the public.

“It is not good governance for decision-makers to be unaccountable, in denial, defensive, unresponsive and dismissive. Acknowledging what went wrong is good governance.

“When people feel fearful and that their needs are bypassed, unimportant or lost in bureaucracy, they come to the Ombudsman, who is available to listen and assist people. Not always are complaints upheld, but they are heard,” said Ms Pearman.

“When identifying deficiencies or unfair decisions by public authorities, we address this by making recommendations to put it right as well as with practical assistance and by suggesting improvements. There is a great responsibility in working to get things done right.”

Ms Pearman concluded: “The role of the Ombudsman is not meant to be easy. We must remember the exhortation, ‘And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”