If you have seen the film Zulu you will know what it is like to be in a Government Ombudsman’s office risking daily being overrun by crazed complainants, fresh from battle.
The Ombudsman’s office is not allowed to use the Martini-Henry rifle and fire by rank manoeuvre, as satisfying as this may sound. However, the Ombudsman’s terms of reference can be drawn so narrowly that over 75% of complaints can be opened, found to be outside the terms of reference, and closed within a matter of a few days of receipt. Unlike Zulu warriors, complainants receive a two page, admittedly standard, letter of rejection. Despite this a customer satisfaction survey remains just as imprudent today as it was in 1879.
With the decks cleared, it gives the Ombudsmen the opportunity to assess the merit and appropriately investigate the remaining complaints. However, after the carnage of repelling the initial onslaught certain government Ombudsman’s offices can feel understandably quite worn out and find it hard resist having a quick role call and then swiftly finishing off the surviving complaints with a bureaucratic cats lick accompanied by another two page letter.
As in so many conflicts an Ombudsman’s lack of achievement can be portrayed as a victory. With glossy brochures reporting a courageous, fearless dedication to duty with occasional salutes by departing, vanquished but appreciative complainants supported by detailed statistics proudly declaring file closures.
Shouldn’t the complainants complain about this treatment? Yes, but who would believe them?
A tangible benefit of complaining to an Ombudsman is telling others that you have done so. It suggests that there is something wrong and that you have done something about it. With certain Ombudsmen, it is the only benefit. To paraphrase Michael Caine "Not a lot of people suspect that" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Caine.
© Paul Brennan 2013. All rights reserved.
LETTER TO EDITOR
LETTER TO EDITOR
Sir: Your article ‘Front Rank File’ 14 June 2013 may leave a misleading impression of the workings of a government ombudsman's office and I wish to point out that:
1. We do not have a hospital wing and as far as I am aware we have no malingers.
2. Our Welsh members of staff do not sing after the rejection of complaints.
3. There are no drunken lay preachers in our office to my knowledge. If there were, they would not be ejected to prevent staff demoralisation. They would be treated considerately and either counselled or promoted in the usual way.
O, name and address withheld.
Dear O: Your comments are noted and I am referring your letter to our newly appointed Agony Ombudsman ("A0"), John Fytit. He is a lawyer of over 21 year’s experience in legal misfortunes. Ed.
Your letter of complaint has been referred to me and I have considered it carefully.
However, I regret to advise you that it is outside my terms of reference.
I realise that this is not the answer that you had hoped for.
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