complaint remedies & outcomes
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What can the Office of the Ombudsman ("Office") do once I make a complaint?


After you have made a complaint, the Office may do any of the following.

  • Refer you to a more appropriate authority. We may refer you when the complaint subject matter and the body complained of fall within our jurisdiction, but there is a more appropriate remedy still available to you (see s.6(1) and (2) Ombudsman Act 2004). This may be the case if you have not raised the issue with the correct authority or had not yet exhausted the authority's complaint handling procedure, and we determined that it is necessary and fair to give the authority an adequate opportunity to address the issues raised (see s.9(1)(b) Ombudsman Act 2004).
  • Make preliminary inquiries with the authority about which you have complained. We will seek to clarify the issues of your complaint and, if possible, assist in resolving it without an investigation.
  • Conduct a full, confidential investigation, reviewing all relevant documentation and gathering evidence (under oath if necessary). An investigation may be called for when the subject matter of a complaint is complex, facts are in dispute and the Ombudsman determines that she must decide whether or not an authority's action constitutes maladministration;
  • Mediate a complaint if the Ombudsman or the Deputy Ombudsman decides this is appropriate.
  • Decline your complaint as being outside of our jurisdiction because either:
    • a) the action complained about is something we cannot investigate; or
    • b) the authority you have complained about is not one we can investigate (see s.6(1)(3) and the Schedule of the Ombudsman Act 2004).

We may also decline your complaint if it is lodged with our Office over a year after you became aware of the issue you're complaining about (see s.9(1)(a) Ombudsman Act 2004) or the Ombudsman has determined that your complaint is frivolous (see s.9(1)(c) Ombudsman Act 2004).

If we decline your complaint we may refer you to another body which may be able to assist with your complaint.

What happens if the Ombudsman investigates my complaint?
If the Ombudsman investigates a complaint she will make findings based on the evidence she has reviewed. She may determine the evidence she has reviewed does not support a finding of maladministration on the part of an authority. If she does so, she is not likely to take any further action.

She may determine the evidence she has reviewed supports a finding of maladministration.
If she finds that there is evidence of maladministration on the part of an authority, she has the power to make such recommendations as she sees fit (see s.15 (3)).

Recommendations that the Ombudsman may make include the following.

  • An omission or a delay be rectified.
  • A decision or recommendation be cancelled or altered.
  • Reasons be given for actions and decisions.
  • A practice, procedure or course of conduct should be altered.
  • A statute or regulation should be reviewed.
  • Improvements be made to practices, procedures and policies.
  • A financial payment be made (see guidance below on the type of payments we may recommend and when we may recommend them).

It is also possible that even if the Ombudsman makes a finding of maladministration that she does not make any recommendations.

 

What are the Ombudsman's timelines for handling complaints?

Stage

Purpose

Target to complete       

Intake

Receive and record cases as well as assess our jurisdiction to assist

Up to 5 days

Facilitated
Resolution

Resolve the issues identified by (re-) establishing direct and clear communication between the complainant and the authority, along with potential solutions, as soon after when the administrative action took place

Up to another 4 weeks

Pre-
Investigation

Assess whether the matter should be investigated and further review any potential challenges our Office may face in carrying out an investigation. Also carry out initial planning

Up to another 2.5 weeks

Investigation

Gather and assess the evidence necessary to determine whether or not to uphold a complaint of maladministration, through formal and informal means of evidence gathering

Up to another 2.5 months

Post-
Investigation

Issue Draft Investigation Report to parties for their input, before finalisation

Up to another 5.5 weeks

Investigation
Conclusion

Receive and assess Authority's statutory response to Final Investigation Report

Up to another 7 weeks

Review

Assess whether to uphold the complainant's request for a decision related to a concluded investigation, if made

Up to another 4 weeks

 

FINANCIAL REMEDIES

What kind of financial payments can the Ombudsman recommend?
The Ombudsman can recommend financial consolation and financial compensation payments.

  • A financial consolatory payment is an ex-gratia payment that signifies the Ombudsman's conclusion that an apology does not sufficiently address the maladministration found. The aim of a consolation payment is to console a complainant and not to compensate a complainant for a financial loss.
  • A financial compensation payment is used to restore the complainant to the position they were in before the maladministration occurred.

Both forms of financial remedy are rarely recommended and can only be recommended after a finding of maladministration. Unlike the Courts, the Ombudsman's recommendations are not binding or enforceable.

Can I complain to the Ombudsman instead of taking an authority to Court to receive payment?
In most cases when Complainants are seeking a financial payment from an Authority the Complainant can pursue this payment in the Courts or with a Tribunal. Under the Ombudsman Act 2004 we cannot investigate such complaints until either: a) the Court or Tribunal process the Complainant has the right to pursue is complete; or b) the time limit for exercising that right has expired.

Our Office will usually decline these complaints and suggest that the complainant speak with a lawyer.

The Ombudsman does have the discretion to investigate a complaint which would otherwise have to be pursued with a tribunal or in the Courts (s.6(2)). However, this discretion is only exercised when it would not be reasonable to expect the complainant to pursue his/her claim in Court or with a Tribunal (s.6(2)).
 
What does the Ombudsman consider when deciding whether she should recommend consolation or compensation payments?
Each recommendation is decided on a case-by-case basis. The Ombudsman is unlikely to recommend financial compensation for unquantifiable or intangible losses. For example, it is unlikely the Ombudsman will award financial compensation for distress or for pain and suffering.

Consolation
A consolation payment can range from $50 - $5,000, depending on the severity of the maladministration found. The amount of the payment is determined at the Ombudsman's discretion.

Compensation
When deciding whether a complainant should be financially compensated, the Ombudsman considers the following questions.

  • Has the complainant suffered a financial loss as a result of maladministration?
  • Is the loss quantifiable?

 

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14 Dundonald Street West
Hamilton, HM 09 Bermuda
Tel: (441) 296-6541
Fax: (441) 296-7734
info@ombudsman.bm