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July 31, 2012
To All Media: Premier of Bermuda and Ombudsman to Meet Periodically

HAMILTON, BERMUDA: Arlene Brock, Ombudsman for Bermuda announces a new protocol following a meeting with the Premier of Bermuda.

She noted: “Further to our 2011 Annual Report, Madam Premier requested to meet with me to discuss my concerns about the Constitutional independence of our office.

We agreed to meet from time to time in future to ensure frank, cordial communication and clarification about procedural and other concerns.

The Ombudsman added: “While we may not be in full accord on every substantive issue, I am confident that such periodic communication will enhance mutual understanding, support for the oversight function of this office, and, shared commitment to promote the principles of good governance.”

Further she noted: “Our agreement is similar to Ontario where the Premier and Ombudsman try to meet quarterly and to a UK protocol with respect to meetings between the offices of the Ombudsman and the Secretary to the Cabinet.”


Editor’s Background Notes:

The Ombudsman for Bermuda’s independence is protected by Section 93B(2) of the Bermuda Constitution 1968.

Under Section 5(2)(b) of the Ombudsman Act 2004, the Ombudsman may launch investigations on her own motion in the public interest, notwithstanding that no complaint has been made to her.

For more information, contact Arlene Brock, 441-296-6541


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June 8, 2012
To All Media: Government’s Response is Inappropriate and Inadequate

HAMILTON, BERMUDA: Today the Ombudsman for Bermuda, Arlene Brock, tabled a Special Report regarding the Government of Bermuda’s May 1st response to Today’s Choices – Tomorrow’s Costs (her report on the SDO process). She stated “I find the continued challenge to my jurisdiction inappropriate and many of the responses to the Recommendations inadequate or even unresponsive.”

“With respect to the Government’s denial that the UK Environment Charter is a legally binding agreement, this Special Report sets out basic principles of international law on agreements between governments. Further, it details the genesis of the Charter as well as statements and actions of the Bermuda and UK Governments that prove that the commitments were intended to be implemented. The Ombudsman asks “why else would the UK Government create a special Environment Fund to enable the Overseas Territories to meet their commitments if that wasn’t intended?”

The Special Report stated “Certainly, there was never any expectation that – eleven years down the road – any signatory would try to claim that the commitments are only “aspirational”. The Ombudsman points out that the UK has conducted two formal reviews (in 2007 and 2009) to monitor compliance with the Charter.

“The ultimate question is whether Bermuda will join the rest of the modern world in making Environmental Impact Assessment a requirement – prior to approval – for all proposed developments that are ‘major’ or ‘likely to cause significant adverse impact on the environment’”.

“Several of the Government’s responses referred to Guidance Note 106. This is irrelevant to SDO applications which do not go to the Development Applications Board for in-principle approval.”

The Ombudsman said “I set out my jurisdiction very clearly in Appendix I of the SDO Report. Today’s Special Report adds a decision of the Privy Council that supports Bermuda’s Ombudsman Act. The words of the Ombudsman Act are crystal clear. You just cannot substitute your own words and claim that is what the Act is saying”.

Notes for Editors

Section 16(3) of the Ombudsman Act 2004 provides for the Ombudsman to submit a special report if the authority has taken no action or has taken action that in the Ombudsman’s opinion is inadequate or inappropriate.

‘Measures of performance by 2009 of UK Overseas Territories (& Crown Dependencies) and UK Government in implementing the 2001 Environment Charters’ can be found on
www.ukotcf.org/charters/progress


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May 1, 2012
To All Media: Government responds to Ombudsman’s SDO Report

HAMILTON, BERMUDA: The Government of Bermuda has responded today, as requested, to the Report on the SDO process: Today’s Choices; Tomorrow’s Costs. As so many people have asked me whether I will comment on the response, I can state that my preliminary view is that I am very disappointed.

I had expected a more substantive response on the value of Environmental Impact Analysis for Special Development Orders that will cause adverse impact on the environment. The fundamental issue in my Report is that decision-makers and stake holders were not furnished with full, neutral and factual information.

Unfortunately the Government’s response quibbles with legalities rather than explain why it has changed its mind that EIAs ought to be conducted for all major development and especially for those that are likely to cause significant adverse impact on the environment. This was clearly the view that the Government subscribed to in the 2001 UK Environment Charter. The failure to require an EIA for the Tucker’s Point proposal reneges on the mandatory language of the Charter and calls our signature and word into question.

The Government also restates a number of erroneous legal conclusions about my capacity to conduct this investigation and whether or not they are required to respond just because they disagree with my findings. I will address these in due course.

The Report applauded the work of the Departments of Planning, Conservation Services and Sustainable Development but the bottom line is that the advice of these departments that 17 of the 23 lots should not be developed was ignored. The final SDO granted development on 14 of those 17 lots.

The Government’s response does not address the fundamental issue: no EIA was conducted prior to making a decision of such vital public importance. Decision makers ought to have received the data that can only come from a comprehensive EIA, including adequate public disclosure and consultation.


Notes for Editors

Section 5(2)(b) of the Ombudsman Act 2004 provides for the Ombudsman to conduct investigations on her “own motion, notwithstanding that no complaint has been made to her, where she is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to carry out an investigation in the public interest”.


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February 17, 2012
To All Media: Ombudsman for Bermuda welcomes trainee from St. Maarten

HAMILTON, BERMUDA: A representative of St. Maarten’s Ombudsman’s office is visiting Bermuda’s Office for the Ombudsman for a week of training, the Ombudsman for Bermuda, Arlene Brock  announced today.

“Patricia Phillips, the Head of Office for the new Ombudsman office in St Maarten has come to our office to gain insight into our approach to our work,” Ms Brock said.

“Our office is recognized as a leader especially in small jurisdiction ombudsmanship,” Ms Brock said. “We have advised other jurisdictions on how to set up small offices and the dynamics and pitfalls of working in small jurisdictions. Even in the large jurisdiction of South Africa, our Annual Reports have been used to train staff.”

“This will be the fourth time in just six years that a new Ombudsman or deputy from the Caribbean has come to Bermuda to be trained by us,” Ms Brock said. “In 2006, the Ombudsman for Turks and Caicos spent two weeks here; in 2009 the Deputy Ombudsman for British Virgin Islands and in 2010 the Ombudsman for Grenada each spent a week”.

 “Our office has developed a curriculum that gives each member of our small staff the opportunity to develop skills as trainers. Although tailored to the needs of each guest, the week generally covers statutory interpretation, complaint management, investigation and mediation skills, analysis, statistics, reports and ethics. In Ms. Philips’ case, we will also spend time on conference planning as next year St. Maarten will be hosting the Caribbean Ombudsman conference that Bermuda hosted in 2008.”

“The contact with the Ombudsman Office of Bermuda was made at the CAROA conference in Curacao in 2010,” Ms Phillips said. “The Ombudsman of St. Maarten, Dr Hilda Arduin, established a close relationship with Ms Brock which resulted in this exchange visit of the Head of the Ombudsman Office of St. Maarten. My visit was short by fruitful and informative and I wish to thank Ms Brock and her staff for allowing me to visit and learn from their experience.”

“Mr. Argar Alexander, Ombudsman for Grenada (June 22-25, 2010) visited our office for training in June 2010, and said “I wish to formally extend very special gratitude to Ombudsman Brock and staff of the Bermuda Ombudsman Office for the professional and hospitable way in which they hosted and assisted me during the study visit. I was very impressed with their modus operandi.”

The Deputy Ombudsman of the British Virgin Islands similarly expressed appreciation for his training in Bermuda: “It is still a marvel that so much could be crammed into a mere one week. Thanks you for this shining example of Technical Cooperation among Overseas Territories”

Mrs Sadie-Jean Williams, retired Complaints Commissioner for the Turks & Caicos stated, “The expertise of Ms Brock and her staff was a tremendous help for my tenure in my office. I gained a great deal from them.”


Notes for Editors

Ms Phillips’ training trip has been funded by the USONA funds (the development funding agency for the Kingdom of the Netherlands).

The training trips for the Ombudsman for Turks and Caicos and Deputy Ombudsman for BVI were sponsored by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The Ombudsman for Grenada was sponsored by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

CAROA (The Caribbean Ombudsman Association) held its 2008 Biennial Conference in Bermuda.

Ms. Brock was elected in 2009 to the 18 member Board of Directors of the International Ombudsman Institute (the only international body for public sector ombudsman with a membership base of approximately 110 national Ombudsman and another 40 regional and sector Ombudsman).

Ms. Brock is the IOI Regional Vice-President for the Caribbean and Latin America and chairs the Training Committee of the IOI Board of Directors.


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February 10, 2012

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To All Media: Ombudsman for Bermuda Tables SDO Report

HAMILTON, BERMUDA:  The Ombudsman for Bermuda, Arlene Brock, has found that Government acted unlawfully by failing to require an Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA] prior to sending the draft Tuckers Point Special Development Order (“SDO”) to the Legislature.

Ms Brock delivered her 88 page report – Today’s Choices- Tomorrow’s Costs – to the House of Assembly today. In it she set out the findings of her systemic investigation of civil servants’ fact-gathering and analysis in the lead up to the Parliamentary approval of the SDO in (March 2011).

“In September 2001 Bermuda signed on to the UK Environment Charter. By so doing the Government committed to carrying out an EIA prior to approving any major development,” Ms Brock said. “The UK is responsible for Bermuda’s international affairs, and this Charter extends to Bermuda the UK’s international environmental obligations under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity 1972 and Rio Declaration on Environment and Development 1992.”

“EIAs ensure there is broad public disclosure and consultation prior to approving such developments. They produce a thorough analysis of the risks posed as well as methods of mitigating such risks,” she said. Ms Brock noted that there are Privy Council decisions binding on Bermuda that also lay out the requirements of EIAs.

“EIAs are vital procedural tools and Bermuda is required to carry them out for good reason. EIAs are internationally considered best practice for development proposals that are likely to have significant adverse impacts on the environment.”

“Beyond our legal obligations,” Ms Brock said, “Government did not pay heed to the fact that proper administration demanded a robust and open information gathering process. Ministers and legislators needed a full analysis of all the likely ramifications of developing such an environmentally important area of the Island. Further, the public controversy surrounding the Tucker’s Point SDOs alerted me to the dearth of good data and process in the lead up to the approving the SDO.”

 “In the case of the latest Tucker’s Point SDO, there was a collective failure of due diligence on the part of civil servants. This was not a question of whether or not tourism development should be encouraged. Rather, this was a case of whether development should be carried out on one of Bermuda’s most environmentally sensitive pieces of land. In such a case, decision makers must have comprehensive information and the best advice from their advisors – the civil service.”

Ms Brock said. “After carrying out a comprehensive investigation I concluded that senior civil servants failed to review the applicable law and did not seek to apply international best practices.” The report does not find fault with individual civil servants, emphasizing that this was a collective failure. 

“Some people may be disappointed that I have not taken the usual Ombudsman approach of naming, blaming and shaming specific individuals. In this investigation, it was hard to say that only one or two persons were responsible for the maladministration. Therefore I think it is sufficient to illuminate the problem and hope that everyone will apply the lessons going forward.”

Ms. Brock said: “I am empowered, through the Ombudsman Act 2004, to investigate only the actions of the Civil Service. I cannot investigate Cabinet decisions or the decisions of the MPs or Senators who, in this case, approved the SDO. This report focused on the information gathering process of the civil servants. They must be empowered and resourced to provide Ministers and Legislators with advice that is based on a firm foundation of fact.”

The Ombudsman applauds the 2011 amendment to the Development and Planning Act 1974 that requires SDOs to be approved by the Legislature instead of a Minister. “This is an important improvement with respect to who makes the decision to grant SDOs,” she said. “However it is critical for us to understand that a less than optimal fact-gathering and evaluation process cannot be cured by an improved decision making procedure (the amendment to the DPA).”

“In reviewing the data that would have come to light in an EIA for the Tucker’s Point application, I was astounded to see how much time seems to have stood still. Almost exactly the same arguments for each issue and on all sides of the issues were raised in 1995 and 2001 that we heard in 2011.” Ms. Brock noted “The more things change, the more they seemed to stay the same.”

“Government officials have claimed that the conditions attached to the 2011 SDO were stringent enough to ensure a balance between development and protecting the Tucker’s Point site” Ms Brock said. “However, over the course of our investigation, several of the experts who I consulted questioned the adequacy of these conditions.”

“The reserved matters in the Tucker’s Point SDO – to be determined by the Development Applications Board [DAB] – provide no comfort that the full risks of the proposed development will be analyzed.” Ms Brock pointed out  “The reserved matters deal with the kind of development that is allowed (design, engineering, landscaping, height, etc.). Information gathered at the reserved matters stage may be too late to inform the preliminary determination about whether development should take place at all. Should such information indicate that a proposal should not be approved, it would be awkward for the DAB to overturn ‘in principle’ approval already granted by the Legislature.”

Ms Brock noted that the 2011 debate over the merits of the SDO had been infused with fears that Bermuda would appear unfriendly to foreign investors and drive them to competing jurisdictions, especially in the Caribbean. “During our investigation we interviewed officials from the UN, the Organization of American States, CARICOM and several Caribbean governments. It was interesting to discover that there is a groundswell across the Caribbean for protection of the environment.  Caribbean officials are extremely well aware of the value of conducting EIAs – for the benefit of investors, governments and the public.”

“As an UK Overseas Territory, Bermuda is not well integrated into the international vernacular and standards. We are in danger of lagging behind.” Ms. Brock added: “We also discovered that as an Associate Member of CARICOM, Bermuda has agreed to promote Sustainable Tourism in addition to conservation of forest and marine environments,” she said.

“Bermuda does have a Sustainable Development Strategy and Implementation Plan and a related department of Government,” she said. “However, the reach of the Strategy and Department has not yet permeated policy and operational decisions throughout the Government.” “The fact that ‘it costs money to be green’ should not deter our standards or creative thinking about how to develop the tourism product.”

The Ombudsman Act 2004 authorizes the Ombudsman to carry out an investigation on her motion (notwithstanding that no complaint has been made from the public) when she is satisfied it is in the public interest to investigate. “Public outcry and unsubstantiated allegations at the time of the 2011 SDO Parliamentary debates made it clear that we did not learn much from previous controversies over the Southlands and the Botanical Garden Hospital proposals. The evidence pointed to an absence of a process for sound and respectful discussion of the issues.”

“By fulfilling our obligation to require an EIA before a major development, Bermuda is not saying ‘No’ to development. Rather we are ensuring that decision makers and the Bermuda public are fully informed before approval is granted,” Ms Brock said.

Ms. Brock extended the statutory period for the Government to notify her of its response to the recommendations to May 1st, 2012. I will not make further public comments until after receiving the response. I am hopeful that two existential questions for Bermuda arising out of the report will be carefully considered: Is our word our bond? Do we wish to be in the 21st Century of good governance?”


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October 19, 2011
To All Media: Ombudsman establishes Public Access Committee

HAMILTON, BERMUDA:  Arlene Brock, Ombudsman for Bermuda, is establishing a Public Access Committee to give input to her office on issues dealing with public outreach such as diversity, social media, public needs and complainant feedback.

Ms. Brock said: “last year, we had a record number of complainants, most of whom were quite assertive about their grievances. We want to make sure that people who are less assertive also feel comfortable to use our services”.

The Ombudsman’s 5th Annual Report pointed out research that indicated that differences in language, culture and education can affect the confidence and fluency with which people pursue their rights. Ms. Brock noted “Bermuda is becoming increasingly diverse. Many people come from countries where it can be intimidating to deal with people in authority. We have recommended that government departments be sensitive to this. It is therefore important that our own office be proactive as well.”

The nine volunteers of the Public Access Committee must represent a diverse cross-section of the public. Each will serve for one or two year terms and meet quarterly (beginning in January 2012). Ms. Brock added: “The Ombudsman world is constantly evolving. With six years under our belt, we are reflecting on how to keep up with international standards in order to be more effective. A structured way for public input will help to ensure that we are accessible to all.”

Interested persons of all ages, ethnicity, cultures, occupations and backgrounds are invited to express their interest by Monday, November 14th to Ms. Suhartono at info@ombudsman.bm; tel: 26-6541; fax: 296-7734.


Notes for Editors
The Ombudsman for Bermuda is an independent Officer of the Constitution who investigates complaints and makes recommendations on the delivery of public services.

The Public Access Committee cannot be involved in or privy to complaint investigations.

Nine volunteers will be selected by an ad hoc committee comprised of representatives from the Auditor General’s Office, Human Rights Commission and Ombudsman Office.

Research referred to: Tribunals for Diverse Users: National Centre for Social Research, 2006. http://www.dca.gov.uk/research/2006/01_2006.htm

More information, contact Arlene Brock 296-6541

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July 21, 2011
To All Media: Ombudsman Recommends Review of Education for Special Needs Students

HAMILTON, BERMUDA:  the Interim Report of the Ombudsman for Bermuda for the period August 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010 (tabled June 27, 2011) is now available on the website: www.ombudsman.bm.

The Report details the first decision in the Supreme Court of Bermuda that considered the Ombudsman’s authority. Ms. Brock notes that the Court’s confirmation that she may recommend that a department reverse its decision “has been applauded globally by Ombudsman scholars”.

Complaint summaries in the Report include a complaint of inadequate education for a special needs student. The Ombudsman found that the Minister did not have full information in making the initial decision about the extent of support to give to that student. She recommended that additional data be collected and analyzed.  Ms. Brock also recommended that the Department of Internal Audit conduct a review of current education services for “all categories of special needs students”.  The Report set out her reasons and conclusion that: “The country should have an interest in ensuring that all such children receive the training and confidence that will enable them to become functioning, independent, contributing adults. We pay now or we pay later.”

This is the first time that the Ombudsman has recommended a review by the Department of Internal Audit, thus demonstrating her confidence in the work and objectivity of that Department. Ms. Brock commends the Ministry of Education “for moving swiftly to implement the recommendations and rectify the complaint as soon as it had gathered adequate data”.

The Report also sets out United Nations’ standards for the independence of (and government support for) the role of the Ombudsman and other national human rights institutions.

Notes for Editors
The Ombudsman’s reporting year was previously August 1 through July 31. Annual Reports must be tabled within six months of the year end. The reporting year is now changed to the calendar year (to ease statistical analysis). Future Annual Reports will be tabled in Parliament by the end of June of each year.

For more information, contact Arlene Brock, Ombudsman for Bermuda at 296-6541

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April 13, 2010
To all Media:
Bermuda Ombudsman conducts investigation training in British Virgin Islands

HAMILTON, BERMUDA:
Ombudsman for Bermuda, Arlene Brock, was asked by the Ombudsman for Ontario and the Complaints Commissioner of the British Virgin Island to co-conduct Ontario’s “Sharpening Your Teeth” investigations course on March 22-25.

A broad range of civil servants participated in the four-day course, including the Financial Investigation Agency, Immigration, Labour, Internal Audit Unit and the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force.

BVI Complaints Commissioner, Elton Georges, said that “Ms. Brock shared generously of the techniques and approaches that helped her office to be very effective in a small population comparable to the BVI's where investigators have to manage their own multiplex relationships and roles."

Ms. Brock was interviewed on BVI radio and noted that: “the course is not only important to help civil servants sharpen their skills in planning and conducting thorough investigations, but also helps them to understand the Ombudsman’s investigations of them”

Ms. Brock will similarly offer the course to civil servants in Bermuda as part of the commemoration of the 5th Anniversary of the Ombudsman institution here.


Editor’s background notes:
Like Bermuda, the Complaints Commissioner in the British Virgin Islands is a constitutional post. Mr. Elton Georges, CMG, OBE, the former Deputy Governor of the British Virgin Islands, was appointed as the first Complaints Commissioner in the British Virgin Islands in February 2009.

The Assistant Complaints Commissioner, Mrs. Monique Hodge-Bell, came to Bermuda for a week-long of training at the Office of the Ombudsman for Bermuda in November 2009.

“Sharpening Your Teeth” has been offered by the Ombudsman for Ontario  not only in Canada but also in the UK, Trinidad & Tobago, Cayman, South Africa, Thailand and many other places. 

For more information, contact Arlene Brock, Ombudsman for Bermuda at 296-6541


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March 9, 2010
To all Media: Ombudsman Forwards Electronic Slave Registers to the Bermuda College, Bermuda National Museum and National Trust

Hamilton, Bermuda
:
Arlene Brock, Ombudsman for Bermuda, today forwarded to the Bermuda College, Bermuda National Museum and National Trust two extensive databases of the 1821 and 1834 Slave Registers. The original hand-written Registers (widely acclaimed as amongst the most treasured gems in the Archives) were created to facilitate compensation for slave-owners when the slaves would be emancipated.

The databases were developed in searchable excel format by Dr. Virginia Bernhard of the University of St. Thomas in Houston. They set out names of owners, slaves and their work and ages. Dr. Bernhard gifted the first part to the Archives more than a decade ago (toward the end of the tenure of then Director J. Adams) with the intention that they be made available for public research. Ms. Brock noted: “the electronic Slave Registers may well open up a new era of family history and other research in Bermuda”. 

During the investigation into Allegations of Barriers to Access to the Archives last year, two researchers complained that there is no public access to the databases (which have been used by the Archives to answer genealogical and academic inquiries). The Archives is in the process of developing its own Slave Register database.

In the interim, the Ombudsman’s Report recommended that a computer terminal be installed for user access to these donated databases as well as CDs of the Hallett Civil Records and the Archives’ own negatives database. The response was that “the [Archives Advisory] Council did not promote the public use of in-house working electronic lists”.  

In fact, the electronic Slave Registers were not produced by the Archives. Dr. Bernhard stated: “The Slave Registers are such a treasure. I have no objection to making the databases public – this is my way of saying thank-you to Bermuda”. However, she stressed: “these are academic working lists. They are not perfect – there are some gaps and spelling errors”. Ms. Brock noted: “although imperfect, the electronic Slave Registers will provide extremely useful information in an accessible format”.  

She added: “I refrained from releasing them before now in order to give the Archives the opportunity to do so. However, nine months after tabling my Report, I cannot in good conscience hold on to these important research tools any longer.”

Ms. Brock received the response to her Report from the Permanent Secretary responsible for the Archives (the Secretary to the Cabinet) on 24th February and is encouraged by some of the actions to be taken. She will table her response in Parliament in April.


Editor’s background notes:

The Ombudsman for Bermuda is an independent Officer of the Constitution. She was appointed in 2005 by the Governor after consultation with the Premier (who first consulted the Opposition Leader).

Section 5(2)(b) of the Ombudsman Act 2004 provides for the Ombudsman to conduct investigations on her “own motion, notwithstanding that no complaint has been made to her, where she is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to carry out an investigation in the public interest.

The Ombudsman tabled the Report of her own motion systemic investigation into Allegations of Barriers to Access to the Archives in June 2009. The response was submitted on 19th February 2010 (in advance of the final extended end of March deadline). Ms. Brock is reviewing each response to the 22 Recommendations and will table her response after due process.

Copies of the Report are available at the Office of the Ombudsman, 14 Dundonald Street, Hamilton or on www.ombudsman.bm.

The Ombudsman has given the 55 images of documents and pictures reproduced in the Report to the Archives, in CD form, for public access.  

For more information, contact Arlene Brock, Ombudsman for Bermuda, at 296-6541.

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5th February 2010
To all Media: Ombudsman for Bermuda submits Fourth Annual Report

Hamilton, Bermuda: Arlene Brock, the Ombudsman for Bermuda, submitted to Parliament today the Fourth Annual Report of the operations of her office.

The report highlighted Ms. Brock’s election as the Regional Vice-President (for Latin America and the Caribbean) on the Board of Directors of the International Ombudsman Institute (“IOI”). She noted that “Bermuda will have the honour of hosting the Annual Board Meeting of the IOI in October. Members of the Board will make a presentation on Ombudsman principles, practices and developments – I hope that the public will take advantage and learn about the evolution of the Ombudsman elsewhere”.

The report also excerpted sections of the Special Report, tabled in June 2009, of the Systemic Investigation into Allegations of Barriers to Access to the Archives. In accordance with s.16 of the Ombudsman Act 2004, the Ministry responsible must detail (a) what has been done or (b) is proposed to effect the recommendations or (c) reasons if no action is to be taken. As a few of the recommendations have financial and possibly legislative implications, Ms. Brock extended the deadline for a detailed response to the end of March.

July 31st, 2010 will mark the fifth anniversary of the institution of the Ombudsman in Bermuda. Ms Brock will host lunchtime chats each Wednesday in June. She says “this will be an informal opportunity for the public to ask questions and give us their comments on our work to date”.  Ms. Brock will also seek feedback from other stakeholders including members of the legislature, the public service and community organizations. She noted “this is the right time to evaluate what needs improvement and whether our Act should be amended to ensure more effective handling of complaints”.

Both the Fourth Annual Report and the Special Report on the Archives are available at www.ombudsman.bm.

Editor’s background notes:

The Ombudsman is an independent, non-government official who investigates complaints from the public about maladministration in the delivery of public services.

The Ombudsman Act 2004 is the governing legislation.

The Office of the Ombudsman was established in August 2005 and Ms. Arlene Brock was appointed for an eight year term by the then Governor, after consultation with the then Premier and then Opposition Leader.

The International Ombudsman Institute (“IOI”) comprises over 130 national, provincial, state and other public sector Ombudsmen from around the world. The IOI was established in 1978 and in September 2009 moved its headquarters from the University of Alberta in Canada to Vienna where it is hosted by the Government of Austria.

Every four years, three Ombudsmen are elected to the IOI Board of Directors from each of six geographical regions. Amongst the three Regional Directors, one is also elected as the Regional Vice-President.

The Directors for Latin America and the Caribbean are the Ombudsmen for Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago and Bermuda. Ms. Brock was also elected as Regional Vice-President.

The Special Report on Allegations of Barriers to Access to the Bermuda Archives was tabled in June 2009. As a few Recommendations have financial and possibly legislative implications, Ms. Brock extended the deadline for a detailed response from the Permanent Secretary Responsible for the Archives (the Secretary to the Cabinet) to end of March 2010.

Over 55 images of old Bermuda included in the Special Report have also been given to the Bermuda Archives on a CD.

For more information, contact Arlene Brock, Ombudsman for Bermuda, at 296-6541.

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22nd July 2009
To all Media: Ombudsman elected to Board of Directors of the International Ombudsman Institute

Ms. Arlene Brock, Ombudsman for Bermuda, was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Ombudsman Institute at their quadrennial conference in June. The two other Directors from Latin America and the Caribbean are the Ombudsmen for Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago. Ms. Brock was also selected to be the Regional Vice-President.

This year, some 350 representatives from over 150 national and regional Ombudsman offices around the world gathered in Sweden, the birthplace of the modern Ombudsman institution, to celebrate its 200th Anniversary.

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6th July 2009 Press Conference
Special Report of Systemic Investigation into Allegations of Barriers to Access at the Bermuda Archives

Opening Statement - CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY


When people who have dedicated their lives to promoting Bermuda's heritage say that they have given up on using the Archives, we have to pay attention. When a Senior Civil Servant who tried in the past to improve internal processes described that intervention as "psychological warfare", then clearly, something is not quite right. When staff were willing to swear on oath that they had been instructed not to reveal certain information to the public, then it became obvious that complaints were not just making it all up.

This Report shines a light on the Archives which some people believe is long overdue. Although not on many people's radar, the Archives are a key national institution in any country. The Archives hold our written history as well as the modern records of Government. When we need to 'set the record straight' – we often need the Archives. Therefore, the Archives cannot be the preserve of only the initiated and the favoured.

"Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants" (the late US Jusitice Louis Brandeis). The 'devil is in the details' – and the nuances. For example, the Rebuttal describes my Recommendation of annual, itemized accounts of the Special Purchase Fund to the Archives Advisory council as "redundant" – because the council is informed of purchases. Actually, the Council has not been informed of all purchases, and the last time it was given an accounting of the fund (purchases and balance) was in October 2005. My Recommendation stands.

This is about the integrity of the Archives, one of the jewels in Bermuda's crown. Our Archives must begin to play a central and more deliberate role in facilitating, promoting and exposing Bermuda's rich written heritage.

I have made Recommendations that I am confident will help the Archives to get back on track. The statutory response date for the Cabinet Office to notify me of the actions taken to give effect or not to the Recommendations is August 28, 2009.

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3rd July 2009
Ombudsman Finds Long-Standing Concerns about Access to Bermuda Archives

Following an extensive investigation, Arlene Brock, Ombudsman for Bermuda, today presented to Parliament a Special Report of her investigation into allegations of barriers to access to the Bermuda Archives.

Ms. Brock finds that "the lack of policies for users and staff contributes to inefficiency and perceived arbitrary public service" and that "the inadequacy of tools that can identify records is tantamount to a barrier to access to the records themselves". Further, the Ombudsman notes that there is "considerable tension" in the repository that "impacts on the research environment as well as on the confidence of staff".

Ms. Brock remarks that a number of the concerns raised during the investigation (about, for example, prohibitive use fees for materials and uncooperativeness with the larger heritage community) had been raised in the past but not fully addressed. As a consequence, persons doing important work of educational and cultural value for Bermuda sometimes just gave up or tried all other resources before going to the Archives.

One challenge has been that the Archives are not on the radar of most people. Ms. Brock concludes that "the Archives must play a fundamental role as Bermuda shapes a national identity. As we lament the increase today in our community of violence, intolerance and other forms of acrimony, it is instructive to consider to what extent the rich content of the Archives can contribute to our collective and mutual esteem. By facing our history, we can perhaps embrace ourselves...This means that the Archives must not only be open to all, but also must strive to be an experience that invites us to return again and again."


When Bermuda decided to create the institution of the Ombudsman as a mechanism for good governance, the intention was that the Ombudsman would do the job without fear or favour. Sometimes the best way to fix problems is to shine a light on them. The Report may be tough medicine to swallow but was needed to move things forward. The Recommendations include: the hiring of a Mentor-Manager to audit the status of projects, develop a vision of the role of the Archives for Bermuda as well as appropriate strategies to accomplish tasks and inspire staff; a more robust role for the Archives Advisory council; and, better outreach and partnerships with the larger heritage community.

Ms. Brock urges that "a new coat of paint on top of business as usual will not be adequate or appropriate."

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12th November 2008
Investigation into Allegations of Barriers to Access to Information in the Archives

Today the Ombudsman for Bermuda, Arlene Brock, announced that her office will be conducting a systemic investigation into allegations of arbitrary barriers to access to information held in the Bermuda Archives.

The Ombudsman for Bermuda has received five complaints from individuals residing both in Bermuda and overseas. Allegations include unreasonable delays and other difficulties in gaining access to archival materials. It is claimed that, as a consequence, research is stymied and also potential donors are reluctant to contribute material of national interest to the Archives.

Ms. Brock emphasized that she had come to no conclusion whatsoever. After information is gathered and analyzed, she will make recommendations as she sees fit. Ms. Brock stressed that her “focus is not on finding fault, but to make recommendations, if needed, that will assist the Bermuda Archives to fulfill its mission to ensure that citizens’ rights to public information are protected”. The Ombudsman is encouraged by the promise of cooperation with the investigation that she has received from the Bermuda Archives.

In order to ensure that the investigation is as thorough and as objective as possible, the Ombudsman for Bermuda is asking anyone with relevant information to contact her as soon as possible. Private interviews will be conducted in person or by telephone as appropriate. Ms. Brock emphasized that all information will be treated in the strictest confidence.

The Office of the Ombudsman for Bermuda can be reached at 14 Dundonald St., Suite 102, Hamilton HM 09; tel: 441-296-6541; fax: 441-296-7734; info@ombudsman.bm.

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1st July 2008
Update on Allegations of Discrimination at KEMH

To all Media:

Ombudsman for Bermuda Delighted with Implementation of Recommendations

On 2 November 2007, Arlene Brock, Ombudsman for Bermuda, tabled “A Tale of Two Hospitals” – an investigation into allegations of discrimination amongst medical professionals at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. She found “clear evidence of disparity in the way in which the system responds to either perceived or actual transgressions by doctors. The disparity is fueled by other forces that have to do with governance and competition.”
Ms. Brock made fifteen Recommendations aimed at assisting KEMH to become more fair and collegial through improving internal processes (so that they apply evenly across the board) or by expanding external resources (to strengthen professional decision-making and learning).

She requested an update on the progress in implementing these Recommendations by 30 June 2008. The BHB Chairman, the CEO and the Deputy CEO met with Ms. Brock in mid-May to discuss progress to date and submitted a final update on 30 June 2008.

The BHB has either implemented or is in the process of implementing each Recommendation. This includes rewriting the Bye-Laws, establishing a Diversity Council and Hotline, and formal clinical advisory relationships with leading medical facilities abroad.

M
s. Brock is delighted with the diligent and comprehensive approach of the BHB to implementing the Recommendations. She stated: “I sincerely believe that implementation of the above and related initiatives will be enduring and will ensure that the oversight of patient management is at the highest standard. With these changes, the public can have great confidence that patient care will be the central and shared focus amongst medical professionals at K.E.M.H.”

Ms. Brock will hold a Press Conference at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, 2nd July 2008.

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21st November 2007
Bermuda to Host 5th Biennial CAROA Conference


The Caribbean Ombudsman Association (CAROA), is an organization created to foster collaboration amongst the Caribbean ombudsman offices and promote discussion on issues of interest. This conference will explore best practices and evolving initiatives and aims to elevate the public understanding of the institution. CLICK HERE to find out more about this event.

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1st September 2006
Investigation Into Allegations of Discrimination at KEMH

Today the Ombudsman for Bermuda, Arlene Brock, announced that her office will be conducting a major systemic investigation into allegations of discrimination involving medical professionals at KEMH. The investigation will focus on whether or not there is a basis for these allegations, including any response to such allegations and, if so, what is the impact on patient care.

The Ombudsman emphasized that she had come to no conclusion whatsoever as to whether there was or was not discrimination at KEMH. “The purpose of this systemic investigation is to gather all the information as thoroughly as possible” she said. Once the information is collected she will analyse it and formulate any recommendations she deems necessary. “If there is discrimination, then it should be dealt with. If that discrimination impacts on patient care, then is crucial for everyone living in Bermuda that we tackle it as quickly as we can”. She also stated that the function of an Ombudsman is not to concentrate on finding fault but to focus on recommendations that can assist with positive change. She noted that she is very encouraged by the promises of cooperation with the investigation she has already received from key stakeholders.

In order to ensure that the investigation is as thorough and as objective as possible, the Ombudsman is inviting submissions from any party who has any information of relevance to the issue being investigated. She also emphasized that all information will be treated in the strictest confidence. She will also conduct private personal interviews as appropriate. “It is very important for anyone who has any relevant information to contact us. This is their opportunity to have their views taken into account”. She asked that she receives submissions by October 15, in order to ensure that the investigation is completed as quickly as possible. The Office of the Ombudsman can be reached at 14 Dundonald St., Suite 102, Hamilton HM 09; tel: 441-296-6541; fax: 441-296-7734; info@ombudsman.bm

The Ombudsman has already assembled a team of experts, including medical experts, to assist her office plan and execute this complex and important investigation. They will be available to her on an as-needed basis. She plans to present her report to the Speaker of the House of Parliament by March 31, 2007.

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Suite 102
14 Dundonald Street West
Hamilton, HM 09 Bermuda
Tel: (441) 296-6541
Fax: (441) 296-7734
info@ombudsman.bm