Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Local Government Ombudsmen and other watchdogs: The final insult

The Local Government Ombudsman costs the taxpayer many £millions a year. Other watchdogs and ombudsmen cost considerably more.

The bodies they supposedly investigate for wrongdoing such as local authorities, government departments etc cost the taxpayers many £billions.

Whilst the Local Government Ombudsman only has the power to recommend compensation, should they find a public body guilty of wrongdoing, other watchdogs, such as the Information Commission, can actually fine them.

However, recommended compensation or fine makes no difference to my 'final insult' argument.

No matter who is responsible within a public body and no matter how serious the offence, all our pathetic watchdogs can do is use a financial deterrent against the public body not individuals within a public body. Which means that the taxpayer also picks up the tab for any public body wrongdoing.

A triple whammy for the taxpayer. 
(1) they have to pay for all public bodies.
(2) they have to pay for all the public service ombudsmen and watchdogs.
(3) they have to pay the compensation or fine.
Here are a couple of examples to illustrate my point.

(1) The Information found two councils guilty of losing unencrypted laptops containing sensitive personal data and fined them a total of £150,000. (There are many other examples available.)

Both laptops were password protected but unencrypted – despite this being in breach of both councils’ policies.

It must have been someone’s responsibly to ensure all laptops were encrypted. Therefore, the ICO should have the powers to force the council to sack, or at least discipline, the individual responsible not fine taxpayers for their wrongdoing.

(2) The Local Government Ombudsman recently found a council guilty of maladministration and recommended they pay £5000 compensation to the victim. (There are many other examples available.)

No one appears to have been sacked or even disciplined because the ombudsman states 'There has been comprehensive staff training since the events in Ms B’s complaint and so the Ombudsman has not recommended any further action.'

Unfortunately this case also illustrates a fourth whammy for the taxpayer.

The final  insult is

(4) they also have to pay to train the staff responsible.

So the bottom line is that only victims and taxpayers suffer as a result of public sector wrongdoing. Public bodies, staff guilty of wrongdoing and elected representatives are all winners.

No wonder elected representatives and our public bodies prefer to keep our pathetic system of administrative justice. 


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