Minister Melissa Arrindell-Doncher.
PHILIPSBURG–Former Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT) Melissa Arrindell-Doncher informed the Ombudsman that she accepted the recommendations provided in the final report regarding the complaint made by the Philipsburg market vendors, as issued.
Arrindell-Doncher sent a response to the Ombudsman in a letter dated Friday, January 12, which the Ombudsman received on Monday, January 22. The response was in reaction to the final report drafted by the Ombudsman regarding the outcome of its investigation of the complaint filed by the vendors post-Hurricane Irma.
On investigation of the complaints filed by some 30 vendors about the removal of their kiosks in Philipsburg, the Ombudsman concluded that the Ministry had not observed the standards of proper conduct, reason, active and adequate information provision, as well as reasonableness and proportionality.
The Ombudsman recommended that the Minister ensure that proper reasons, motives and grounds be observed, provided and explained to citizens in general and the complainants in particular in all pending decisions and that the Minister inform complainants in writing about the steps taken and the action plan regarding the relocation of the marketplace structures, with copy to the Ombudsman.
Copies of the steps to be taken and action plan were not enclosed. However, a status report was promised no later than March 15, the Ombudsman said in the release.
“The standard of proper conduct, reason provides that actions taken by Government should be carried by facts and logic communicated to the citizen. Proper reasons, motives and grounds should be provided and explained to the citizen with all decisions made by Government,” the release said. “A public body cannot act on the basis of its own discretion nor can it act randomly; as such, every decision and action of a public body has to be properly motivated.
“The standard of reasonableness and proportionality entails that an administrative body is obliged to weigh interests in reaching a decision and to observe the principle of proportionality. This requires that the negative consequences of an action to achieve a certain goal may not be disproportionate to the interest of the citizen.”
A public body is required to conduct a thorough and adequate investigation into the relevant facts and circumstances; adequate information should be gathered. Subsequently, the acquired facts have to be weighed against the interests of the citizen; the outcome may not be unreasonable.
The standard of proportionality provides that the consequences of a decision made, or action taken by a public body have to be proportional to the goal it is meant to serve. A public body is to employ the measure that interferes the least with the interest of the citizen. And the goal has to justify the means used (proportionality). When coming to a decision the public body has to be well aware of its impact.
Active and adequate information provision requires – in the interest of managing the affairs of the citizens – administrative bodies to actively and on request provide adequate information to the public. Providing adequate information can clear up the air between public bodies and the citizens. In general, an individual is more willing to accept a situation when there is an explanation, or the outcome of a request is motivated.
To ensure a high level of credibility in public bodies, transparency is essential. Being open and clear in providing adequate information regarding plans and actions of the Government that affect the interest of the citizen is a requirement for enhancing the credibility of public bodies, the Ombudsman said in the release.