Ombudsman Gwendolien Mossel (fourth right), Bureau Ombudsman Secretary General Randolf Duggins (right) and Legal Advisor Aishira Cicilia (third right) meet with the Council of Ministers.
PHILIPSBURG–Ombudsman Gwendolien Mossel recently had an introductory meeting with the Council of Ministers about her vision for the coming years, to reconfirm previously established agreements on investigations and expressed concerns that have been identified in the ministries, but not yet tackled.
The Ombudsman, who took office in January, also informed the Council about the progress on the ongoing community outreach programme, and highlighted some issues that will be presented in the 2018 Year Report in July.
The Ombudsman aims to breach the gap between the public and government by raising the level of service provided by government to a higher standard, as well as continue to promote awareness of the role of the ombudsman. The Ombudsman also intends to introduce an alternative way of resolving conflicts through “Ombudsmediation” – Mediation within the mandate of the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman reminded the ministers that the Bureau was still awaiting the past due responses to recommendations issued in the systemic investigations regarding the Rent Tribunal and the procurement process at PJIAE NV and emphasized that both investigations are essential for the rebuilding process of Sint Maarten.
The Ombudsman touched on some of the issues that have been identified in the ministries. In the Ministry of General Affairs, pending are the ratification of legislation and the need for a properly functioning personnel department. The Finance Ministry still has to address the functioning of the tax department and the Cadastre.
On the pending list for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports are dealing with school subsidies, and for the Ministry of Spatial Planning and Infrastructure is the recent non-response from the Permits, Domain and Inspection Departments to inquiries from the Ombudsman.
In the area of the Justice Ministry, the Ombudsman is awaiting answers about the functioning of the Court of Guardianship and independent agencies such as Stichting Justitiële Inrichting Bovenwinden, human rights aspects at the prison, victim support in criminal cases and human resources issues.
The Ministry of Tourism and Economic Affairs still owes the ombudsman insight into concerns about the functioning of the vehicle inspection centre regarding the capacity to serve the entire community.
The ombudsman said there have been improvements at the ministries in terms of cooperation with the bureau’s investigations. Singled out by the ombudsman was the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA for “its timely responses to queries and investigations, as well as adequate follow-up on recommendations.”