My role as the Service Complaints Ombudsman is to provide independent and impartial oversight of the Service complaints system. Much of that role is about putting things right when they have gone wrong, but what happens when something that we do goes wrong? In my blog this month I will be looking at that issue and letting you know what you can expect from us.
Many of you reading will already be aware that last week I had to reissue my Annual Report 2016 as it contained incorrect statistics. As was explained when the corrections were made – we did not knowingly publish incorrect information. A mistake was made in the statistics that were provided to my office and this was not identified until after the report had been laid in Parliament. Once I had been formally notified of the issue, all necessary steps were taken to determine what went wrong and to correct the published information as swiftly as possible.
Having to reissue a report is not something that any organisation wants to do – particularly when it is the inaugural report of a new organisation. An extraordinary amount of work is put into the preparation and publication of such a report to ensure that mistakes are not made and that the final product is accurate.
So what does it mean when something goes wrong? Interestingly enough in this instance it reaffirms one of the recommendations I made in my report as the errant statistics provided by one of the Services concerned the rate of closures against the 24 week target.
That the Ministry of Defence identifies an appropriate working group by the end of April 2017 to evaluate the current target for resolving 90% of Service complaints within 24 weeks to ensure that it is appropriate, including the method for calculating when the 24 weeks begins. A representative from the OSCO should be involved in this review.
However, more generally it highlights where things can be done better. Steps have already been taken to ensure that my office has greater oversight of the statistics throughout the year so that errors in end of year reporting can be more readily identified and work is already underway to ensure that all Services understand what information we are seeking for Annual Report 2017.
While we wish this had not occurred, ultimately I think that there are positives that have come from it. In acting swiftly to correct the errors in the report in a transparent manner we have demonstrated the independence, impartiality and integrity of this office. I hope that above all the one thing people will take from this incident is that while there are processes in place to ensure that all work done by our office is of the highest quality, we will always act to put things right where something has gone wrong.
Updated versions of the Ombudsman’s Annual Report 2016 and Supplementary Brochure can be found on our website – https://www.scoaf.org.uk/service-complaints-ombudsman/publications-and-reports/annual-reports/ . If you would like a hard copy of the updated Supplementary Brochure please email email@example.com