.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Stepping onto a slippery slope

Like many others this morning I was astonished to wake to the news that the Public Services Ombudsman is seeking the power to stop the publication of some of its reports and to prosecute those who go against his wishes.

According to the BBC this would mean complainants could face contempt of court charges if they go to the media. The danger is of course that it will lead to less transparency and accountability. The BBC add that a number of legal experts believe it is the duty of the justice system, not the ombudsman, to decide whether confidentiality outweighs public interest:

Matthew Nicklin QC, a barrister for 5RB Chambers, said he thought the dangers were "obvious".

"The public expect an ombudsman's service to operate with transparency," he said.

"You can't have a service which operates behind closed doors because none of us would know what's going on.

"I struggle to see how it can ever be right for the ombudsman to produce a report in private."

He added: "The ombudsman is one of the processes by which you can complain. It's wrong that as a price of complaining to the ombudsman, you ought to be signed up to some confidentiality undertaking."

Like Kirsty Williams I am concerned that the proposed change could prevent lessons being learnt from a public body's failings.

She said that ombudsman's reports are valuable for people to learn from past mistakes:

"These reports often highlight significant failures in public bodies and if we're to stop those failures from happening again, we need to learn lessons," she said.

"And those reports need to be available to the public, they need to be available to politicians and they need to be available to other public service organisations that can look at those recommendations and test them against the practice in their own particular organisations.

"So if we're to learn from mistakes when things go wrong, these reports are a valuable learning tool and they should be available."

I do hope the Welsh Government resist this proposal.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?