By Aaron Humes: The 15th Annual Report of the Ombudsman has been tabled at the House of Representatives.
The 48-page document notes that in 2015, the Ombudsman received a total of two hundred and seventeen complaints of wrongdoing, corruption, injustice or injury on the part of a government authority. Authority is defined in the Ombudsman Act as a Ministry, department or agency of Government, the Belize Police Department, a City or Town Council or any other statutory body.
The Ombudsman says that the figure would have been higher, but some complaints were grouped as one because of their similar nature. The Belize Police Department continues to command the bulk of the complaints. Of the 2 hundred 17 grievances, ninety-one new complaints (or 41%) were made against that Department.
The remaining new complaints were made against the court system and proceedings; other authorities received 16 percent of the complaints while the 8 percent of the complaints were made against the Lands & Surveys Department. The Immigration & Nationality Department was the target of 5 percent of the complaints.
Among its recommendations this year, the Office of the Ombudsman makes some interesting suggestions apart from the usual recommendations for, among others, more training for the police and public officers.
For instance, Ombudsman Lionel Arzu is calling for the quote “Abolition of the practice of requiring recommendations from Area Representatives before accepting applications pertaining to national lands. Lots Committee should be bi-partisan. All transactions at the Lands and Surveys Department should be reduced into writing for the benefit of the interested parties, every time.” End quote.
He also notes that the conflict between the practice of indigenous land ownership and the modern system of land ownership should be resolved systemically.
On another important matter, he puts forward that there should be an amendment to the Criminal Code so that corporal punishment of minors is repealed. We will have more on the ombudsman’s report later on.
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