Ombudsman Sees Complaints Increase 22% In 2015; Reports On Ombudsman And Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner Investigations
Mary McFadyen, Saskatchewan’s Ombudsman and Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner, released the Ombudsman Saskatchewan Annual Report 2015 and the Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner Annual Report 2015 today. McFadyen reported that, as Ombudsman, she received 22% more complaints in 2015 than in 2014. In addition, the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction was expanded in November to include municipalities. Complaints have just begun coming in for that sector. She also reported on several investigations, including an update on Taking Care: An Ombudsman investigation into the care provided to Margaret Warholm while a resident of the Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home. As Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner, she reported on two investigations, including an investigation into alleged wrongdoings at the Saskatchewan Research Council.
She said, “We are continuing to work diligently to respond to complaints from the public about provincial and municipal government services not being administered fairly, and allegations of wrongdoing and reprisals from public servants within provincial government institutions.”
As Ombudsman, McFadyen said that she saw higher complaint volumes overall, with the largest increases related to correctional centres and health entities. Complaints about long-term care facilities peaked in the first half of 2015 during the investigation that resulted in the Taking Care report, which was tabled on May 13, 2015. In it, McFadyen made 19 recommendations to the Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home, the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region and the Ministry of Health. At her request, at the end of 2015, these organizations updated her on their progress towards implementing the recommendations. These status updates are included in her report. She has also asked the three organizations to make detailed information on their progress available to the public. She said, “It is important that the public know that they are taking concerns about long-term care in Saskatchewan seriously and are working towards improvements. Our Office remains available to take complaints from residents and family members who do not think their concerns are being addressed.”
In addition to the increase in complaints generally, the Ombudsman received jurisdiction over 780 municipalities on November 19, 2015. This includes receiving complaints about conflict of interest allegations against council members. Between then and the end of the year, her Office received 33 complaints about the municipal sector. McFadyen expects this number to grow in 2016.
As Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner, McFadyen reported on an investigation into a disclosure of five alleged wrongdoings at the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC). Her Office investigated and made one finding of wrongdoing: The SRC released a builders’ lien holdback early, in contravention of The Builders’ Lien Act. However, since the Act already gives potential lien claimants a way to hold SRC liable, and SRC reasonably considered the risks of releasing the holdback early, McFadyen declined to make any recommendations.
The Ombudsman’s annual report is available at www.ombudsman.sk.ca and the Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner’s annual report is available at www.saskpidc.ca. The Ombudsman and Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner operates under The Ombudsman Act, 2012 and The Public Interest Disclosure Act. She is an officer of the Legislative Assembly. Her Office promotes and protects fairness and integrity in the design and delivery of government services.
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