Ombudsman response back to Minister Outlining Concerns

28 March 2017

 

The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, PC, OMM, MSM, CD, MP
Minister of National Defence
National Defence Headquarters
Major-General George R. Pearkes Building
101 Colonel By Drive,
13th Floor, North Tower
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K2

 

Dear Minister Sajjan:

Thank you for your response of 28 March 2017 to my report entitled The Case for a Permanent and Independent Ombudsman Office in which you indicate that you do not support my recommendation for a legislated mandate for this office. We will take steps to ensure that your response is appended to my report.

I am concerned that your decision not to support my recommendation was made without the benefit of a briefing or a review of the evidence that was offered to you and your staff in the 35 days prior to the release of the report. The offer of a detailed briefing and a review of the documentary evidence remains open.

You are already aware of the issues regarding the insufficiency of my delegated authorities. These have been made known to you during our meetings, through correspondence to departmental officials on which you were copied, and in letters addressed directly to you.  Contrary to the view put forward in your letter, the provision of administrative services and the delegated authorities that accompany them, most certainly do not support the requirements of my office. That is what underlies the evidence-based report that I submitted to you.

The issues surrounding the governance structure of this office are not new.  They have been identified by every former Ombudsman office holder and were analyzed in the Auditor Generals of Canada’s 2015 Spring Report.

In addition to the governance issues, the Auditor General identified compliance issues and a lack of internal controls which meant that neither the Department nor the Ombudsman could be assured that controls were working. The Ombudsman’s office has since conducted a complete gap and risk analysis and has formalized its internal controls, methodologies and standard operating procedures. This has ensured compliance going forward and alleviated any concern regarding stewardship of public resources. You should be aware that the procedures designed by and implemented for the Ombudsman’s office have been so effective that the Department has recognized them as best practices.

The report, supported by the evidence I am holding, represents my best advice to ensure that the office of the Ombudsman can represent our Defence Community in the most responsible way possible, and to provide them with the greatest independent voice available to them.

After a comprehensive review, my conclusion is that the dysfunction that has preoccupied every holder of this office is inherent in the governance structure and is beyond the goodwill and efforts that have been expended to make it functional. Maintaining the existing governance framework in no way demonstrates respect of the mandate or the operational independence intended by the framers of the office.

 

Sincerely,

 

Gary Walbourne, MBA, CHRL, CPA, CMA
Ombudsman 

 

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