Cayman Islands Complaints Commissioner Nicola Williams will leave her post in January, seven months ahead of the end of her government contract, for a high-profile position in the United Kingdom.
Ms. Williams has been appointed as the U.K. Service Complaints Commissioner, who acts as the ombudsman for the U.K. Armed Forces. A bill moving through British Parliament aims to strengthen the role of that office.
“This will add a powerful, independent voice to the armed forces complaints handling system and ensure all our personnel can have the confidence to raise matters of concern,” Anna Soubry, minister of State for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, said regarding the legal changes and Ms. Williams’s appointment.
Ms. Williams’s current contract, extended for just one year rather than the normal five years for the complaints commissioner position, was due to end in August. She submitted her resignation to Governor Helen Kilpatrick Thursday.
She acknowledged to the Cayman Compass that various aspects of her contract renewal process were unsatisfactory. “That’s fair to say, yes,” Ms. Williams said.
Also, Ms. Williams expressed considerable concern regarding the government’s reluctance to implement certain recommendations made by her office, which acts as an independent ombudsman for public complaints against government agencies, except for law enforcement operations.
“To be fair to government, from the time that I started to now, there is more speed and willingness to carry out recommendations [from the complaints commissioner],” Ms. Williams said. “But having said that, at the beginning, I got a lot of push-back.”
In particular, the government’s reaction to a special report by the complaints commissioner on private sector pension plans in the Cayman Islands was “very disappointing,” she said.
“Just under half [of the pension recommendations] are still outstanding,” Ms. Williams said. “Most of those will be cured once a pensions bill is brought into law. However, this bill has been discussed for the last four years.
“My concern is that this [pension issue] is going to kicked into the long grass until the next election and nothing is going to be done.”
In other areas, the government was more responsive, Ms. Williams said.
Employment Minister Tara Rivers, who also has responsibility for pensions governance, has said the revised National Pensions Law will come before the Legislative Assembly in 2016.
On a more productive note, the proposal of the Protected Disclosures Bill, to keep Cayman Islands workers who report wrongdoing from being retaliated against, is a direct result of the complaints commissioner’s office report on whistleblowing, she said.
Also, recommendations regarding workplace safety regulations were followed quite well by government agencies, the commissioner noted. Ms. Williams had also expressed concerns, voiced by other independent offices, including the information commissioner, about a government move to consolidate the independent watchdog offices of government into a single agency.
She declined to comment further on that subject Thursday.