by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – The office of the Ombudsman has been closed for about six years, and the new administration has seen it fit to reinstate the office, which is one of the democratic mechanisms necessary for a government to function above reproach.
The Governor-General, Her Excellency Dame Marcella Liburd, appointed Reverend Bishop Cyprian Williams to act as Ombudsman as of March 20, 2023.
The Ombudsman is empowered, through legislation, to investigate, interview, and request documents from any administrative body of a government authority to decide whether there is evidence of maladministration and to make recommendations to the authority concerning any administrative action that formed the subject of the investigation and how to improve administrative practices and procedures.
Through the Governor-General, the government and the opposition, an individual is chosen to carry out the duties of the office.
For the responsibilities that the office of the Ombudsman holds, Williams shared that it should not be vacant, no matter the circumstance.
“So the office of the Ombudsman is an essential part of this good governance. Very important. I will say to you that it is so important that even if myself acting – if I have to travel, if I am sick for a period of time, somebody has to act in the office. It means that the office must not be vacant at any time.”
The acting Ombudsman clarified that maladministration is not just in the actions taken by the government but also in the actions not taken.
“Maladministration is not just what you do; it’s what you don’t do. [elays] in making decisions. Conducting an investigation, coming to some sort of decision regarding the person on the other end, waiting for a response. The person on the other side feels that somebody is just sitting on their application, just not doing anything, no answer… Not only that, if somebody’s being treated unfairly, maybe feel that you’ve been victimised… for example, they just put you in an office, no chairs, nothing, you know, the condition is not right. Those are against the labour laws.”
Williams reassured that the purpose of the office of the Ombudsman is not to make the government look inadequate but to hold government departments, boards and bodies accountable and to act as a mediator between the government and the people.
He reassured the public that anyone who wishes to make a complaint is protected under the Act, and thus there should be no concern about victimisation.
“Not because you make a complaint, meaning after that people are going to want to victimise you… you are protected. And if that is going to be the case by any senior officers, it means that a special report will be tabled to Parliament given to the speaker indicating that this person made a complaint and the senior officer is victimising them or whatever, and this is serious business.”
Bishop Williams will operate from the Integrity Commission’s Office on the 2nd Floor of the Delisle Walwyn Building, Liverpool Row, Basseterre, St. Kitts. Anyone wishing to contact the Ombudsman’s office can call 466 -6436 EXT 304 or via email at email@example.com.
Watch the full interview with the new acting Ombudsman, where he explains his background and qualifications here: