Toronto’s Interim Ombudsman says 2015 was a year of wide-spread recognition for the work the office is doing.
In releasing his 2015 Annual Report, Kwame Addo said the Toronto Ombudsman is recognized as a respected investigative organization. Addo said the City’s first Ombudsman deserves a lot of the credit. “Fiona Crean was a strong advocate for fairness and equity, but also helped City staff understand how the Ombudsman could help them improve service to the public.”
The Interim Ombudsman pointed to the release of “The Impact of Ombudsman Investigations on Public Administration” a ground-breaking study sponsored by the International Ombudsman Institute. “The report showed that, after seven years of existence, a more heightened sense of accountability has embedded itself in the culture of City Hall.”
The report conducted by Ryerson University found a large majority of senior City staff who were interviewed felt the Ombudsman had changed the way they do their jobs. According to one of the City’s senior executives, “I think [the Ombudsman's office] is starting to impact people’s behaviours without having investigations.”
Addo says this recognition was echoed by the Dean of the Osgoode Hall Law School, who recommended the Ombudsman remain as a separate office reporting to City Council.
The Interim Ombudsman says 2015 was not just a year of recognition. “My staff continued their impressive work, looking into 1,802 complaints, and conducting 7 investigations, 6 of which were systemic, into subjects such as the operation of Security at City Hall and how Occupational Stress Injuries affecting Toronto Paramedic staff are handled by the service.
Poor communication and poor service were common themes among the complaints handled this past year:
- After an elderly couple complained they had not received an electricity bill in six months, Toronto Hydro reviewed their account and gave the couple a three-month credit.
- A resident complained that she was charged for a large garbage can, when she only had a medium-sized one. Solid Waste Management gave the resident a $400 rebate to compensate her for the error.
- Toronto Building and the Heritage Preservation Unit changed its procedures after a local school was demolished in East York without the required consultation.
Addo says staff at the Ombudsman’s Office looks forward to working with the new Ombudsman, when the office is filled by City Council. “In the meantime, they continue to go the extra mile to help complainants with their problems. They are a key reason the office is such a success.”