Watchdog: Immigration ignoring complaints

A number of complaints made to the Cayman Islands Immigration Department last year were either not handled in a timely manner or were completely ignored, a review by the complaints commissioner’s office found.

The complaints commissioner’s office — which acts as the local government watchdog looking into claims of poor or incompetent public administration — began its investigation following a complaint made in February 2008.

According to the report, an individual sent a complaint to three members of the Immigration Department’s staff on 8 January, 2008. Private details contained in that message were communicated to a third party outside the department.

The complaining party also noted that immigration had not responded to the complaint months after it was filed.

The complaints commissioner’s report noted the allegations were very serious and should have been investigated promptly, even if accusations of leaking sensitive information turned out to be false.

‘I find that there has been maladministration and an injustice,’ complaints analyst Barrie Quappe wrote in her report on the issue.

During the course of the complaints commissioner’s investigation into the matter, certain requests for telephone records were made and challenged in court. Grand Court Justice Alexander Henderson ruled that phone records could be accessed during a complaints investigation, even if those records belonged to a non-governmental entity or a private individual.

In follow-up investigations, the complaints commissioner’s office reviewed other complaints that it had referred to the Immigration Department. Of the 14 referrals outstanding by October 2008, immigration officials indicated that only two had been resolved.

‘The (complaints commissioner’s office) has not seen efforts to date by the department to comply with the one-month time frame for completing investigations of their internal complaints,’ the commissioner’s report stated, adding that the Immigration Department also failed to show it had issued reports on internal investigations in a timely manner.

Other instances of immigration officials failing to respond to complaints included one report in April 2008 when a resident noticed an entry stamp had not been placed on their passport. It took until early August to get a response from the department on the issue, according to the commissioner’s report.

In another case, the commissioner’s office found that the Immigration Department failed to conduct a thorough investigation of a professional misconduct complaint made on 28 August.

‘It is my finding that the allegation is well-founded as the complaint was not thoroughly and properly investigated and the complainant was not informed of the details of the internal investigation…and therefore could not determine whether or not a proper investigation into their complaint had been conducted,’ the commissioner’s report read.