2007

OMBUDSMAN SAYS TRIBUNALS NEED TO "RAISE THE BAR"

2007-12-17

News Release

Saskatchewan Ombudsman Kevin Fenwick says the province's tribunals need to improve their performance by moving to a more coordinated system, adopting a best practices approach and making every effort to provide timely decisions to people who appear before them.

Fenwick tabled a report in the Legislative Assembly today titled Hearing Back: Piecing Together Timeliness in Saskatchewan's Administrative Tribunals. He says, "The administrative tribunals we examined generally want to do a good job, and their ability to do so would be enhanced if there were a consistent set of best practices against which they
could measure themselves, and better co-ordination of tribunals as a system. Without these, people may end up waiting too long to find out, for example, whether they will
be entitled to compensation, or have been discriminated against, or are entitled to get their job back."

There are 55 administrative tribunals across the  province that deal with a variety of issues that can impact anyone. One case highlighted in the report was that of "Mandy."

"Mandy" believed her union failed to represent her adequately. She took the matter to the Labour Relations Board and participated in two hearings, four months apart. Sixteen months later, she had no decision from the Board and called the Ombudsman.

Based on this complaint, and others, the Ombudsman launched an investigation into the timeliness of decision-making at administrative tribunals. The Ombudsman's office examined six tribunals as a representative sample of the province's 55 tribunals. The six were: The Automobile Injury Appeal Commission, The Human Rights Tribunal, The Highway Traffic Board, The Labour Relations Board, The Office of Residential Tenancies,
and the Workers' Compensation Board.

The Ombudsman found that there can be many reasons for delays in the administrative
tribunal system, and these vary from one tribunal to another. Contributing factors to
delays may include:

  • lack of established timelines
  • lack of procedural accountability
  • formal procedures and hearings
  • lack of resources
  • varied knowledge and skill levels among tribunal members

Overall, the Ombudsman found that the administrative tribunal system developed in a piecemeal fashion, and he believes it needs to change. "Government and tribunals need to move toward a co-ordinated system that can share resources, reduce inefficiencies
and apply a best practices model."

The Ombudsman identified 21 best practices and made 27 recommendations, which apply to all 55 of the province's administrative tribunals. In making the recommendations, Fenwick says, "We recognize that each tribunal has a unique mandate and that our recommendations are not a meant to be a 'one size fits
all' solution. Each tribunal, along with government, will have to review the recommendations and determine how best to implement them."

Ombudsman Saskatchewan is an impartial body that uses negotiation, investigation, mediation and conciliation to resolve complaints from citizens about unfairness in the provincial government administration, including the province's administrative tribunals. The organization, established in 1973, operates under The Ombudsman and Children's Advocate Act and reports to the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan.

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Media contact:
Leila Dueck
Director of Communications
Ombudsman Saskatchewan
Phone: 306-787-7369
Fax: 306-787-9090
E-mail: ldueck@ombudsman.sk.ca

For report copies:
www.ombudsman.sk.ca (Click on "News / What's New.")

#150-2401 Saskatchewan Drive
Regina, SK. S4P 4H8
306-787-6211
1-800-667-7180

315-25th Street East
Saskatoon, SK. S7K 2H8
306-933-5500
1-800-667-9787

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