Ombudsman asks Ministry of Finance to apologize

Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston

An appeal made to the Office of the Ombudsman over a Freedom of Information request in September 2017 has resulted in an eight-page report which asks the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to make an apology to the applicant.

An apology is in order, Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston said, due to the poor customer service the unnamed applicant received. Had the applicant used one of the 30 customer satisfaction kiosks the government has installed in various public areas, Ms. Hermiston wrote in a news release on the report, “she would not have selected the ‘happy face’ as a reflection of her customer experience.”

“Even if I had the power to order the Ministry to apologize, I would not,” the ombudsman said in the report. “Apologies must be made freely in order to be effective and to achieve the ultimate goal of repairing mistakes.”

The applicant, according to the report, was forced to re-file a freedom of information request regarding stamp duty abatements when the first request was not completely responded to. The second part of the request in the first application asked for the letter of abatement of stamp duty for some specific parcels.

The ministry responded that it did not have information on those parcels.

The applicant then filed an appeal with the ombudsman, based on the first response she received from the finance ministry, on Sept. 7. On Sept. 13, the finance ministry provided a complete response to the applicant’s second submission of a freedom of information request.

In her report, Ms. Hermiston said neither the applicant nor the ministry informed her office that the information request had been completed to the applicant’s satisfaction.

The analyst investigating the matter did not find out until Sept. 26.

Eight months later, the ombudsman’s office issued its investigative report – the second report it has issued this year – suggesting the Ministry of Finance make an apology to the FOI applicant.

The ministry had not responded to a request for comment by press time.

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