Ombudsman’s Office Busy in 2016; Makes Recommendations About Saskatoon Correctional Centre Conditions, Municipal Conflicts of Interest
Mary McFadyen, Saskatchewan’s Ombudsman and Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner, released her 2016 Ombudsman Saskatchewan and Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner annual reports today. The Ombudsman’s Office received 3,419 complaints within its jurisdiction – 22% more than in 2015 and 48% more than two years ago.
Over 500 complaints were about municipalities in 2016 – the first full year in which the Office could take these complaints. One third of these were about council member conduct – including conflicts of interest. In 2016, McFadyen’s Office did three investigations into conflicts of interest, which were publicly
reported on in early 2017. She said, “Residents need to know their council members are acting only in their community’s best interest. Council members need to know what to do when their private interests conflict with their public duties.”
The highest volume of complaints in 2016 – 932 in total – came from correctional centres. This amounts to 27% of complaints overall. In addition to working on these individual complaints, the Office investigated the living conditions at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre. In general, she found cleanliness to be lacking. In some areas, mattresses on the floor in make-shift dorms and double-bunking meant inmates had no privacy and minimal space to sleep, eat and use the toilet. Inmates in the medical, secure and holding cells said they spent most of the day in these cramped conditions. While Corrections was taking some steps to address the conditions we observed, McFadyen saw room for further improvement. She found Corrections had no standards for cleanliness, maintenance or accommodations. She said, “Corrections should establish cleaning standards and protocols, and standards for inmate accommodations, beds/mattresses, privacy and the use and availability of toilets and showers – and it should ensure these standards are met.” She made four recommendations to improve living conditions in correctional centres across the province.
In addition to complaints about Corrections and municipalities, the Office dealt with a wide variety of other issues. McFadyen said, “We have successfully met the challenge of addressing the increase in complaints. We resolve most complaints informally through appropriate referrals, coaching, facilitated communication, diplomacy and mediation. If a complaint cannot be resolved informally, we can investigate and make recommendations aimed at correcting the issues we uncover.” In 2016, she made 25 recommendations to nine government entities.
As Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner, McFadyen said that the number of disclosures remains low. She said, “To me, this means that public employees are afraid to come forward or don’t know where to turn.” She said that her Office continues to assure public servants that they do not need to be afraid to speak out. “We hope that by doing our work in confidence, and then making the results public, we can show that we protect the identity of those who come forward and also demonstrate that their concerns are taken seriously.”
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.
– 30 –
Director of Communications