January 27, 2022

The Editor Speaks: An apology?

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One of our main stories published today is headlined “Cayman Islands Ombudsman recommends Government Ministry to apologize”.

Excuse me? A government department to apologize? That’s asking for the moon.

The article centres around someone (a woman) who “ was not satisfied with the Ministry’s response to her original request for information on stamp duty abatements. The Ombudsman found that the Deputy Information Manager misinterpreted the original request, searched for only part of the request and failed to interview the Applicant. This misinterpretation resulted in the Applicant having to submit a second request which ultimately resulted in the Applicant obtaining the requested documents.

“No order or direction was made since the Applicant, on her own initiative, was able to secure the records she was seeking. However, the Ombudsman took an additional step and recommended the Ministry apologize to the Applicant for their mistake”!

The Ombudsman further says:

“Sometimes great customer service means saying you are sorry. Ombudsmen around the world regularly recommend apologies as a way of making things right. An honest and sincere apology has the potential to initiate the restoration of trust and to repair a mistake. While apologies cannot undo the past, they can mitigate the negative effects of a mistake.

“In my role as Ombudsman I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to recommend the Ministry apologize to the Applicant. Apologies seem to be the hardest words to say for some governments and civil servants. I hope this is not the case in the Cayman Islands because this seemingly small action can make a meaningful difference in the government’s relationship with the people of the Cayman Islands. A well-placed apology is an important tool in any customer-service-focused organization’s tool kit.”

Very sensible and I endorse everything Ombudsman, Sandy Hermiston says.

I am doubtful, however, if it will happen.

In the UK, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, was forced to apologize for her government’s treatment of the Windrush citizens. This was in addition to the Home Secretary’s apology.

However, the Home Office, that actually executed the deportations did not apologize.

In the Cayman Islands I have never heard of a government departmental head apologize.

If any apology does come it will be from the Premier or the Minister, the MLA, in charge who probably had nothing whatsoever to do with the matter.

The reason? Civil servants are frightened of admitting any guilt for fear of reprisals against them, this could be internally or outside determination for damages in the courts. To apologise is an admission of guilt.

In the USA it is understandable when enormous awards are given for the most trivial of things. This is the Cayman Islands.

Will Franz Manderson, the Deputy Governor, take heed of Ms.Hermiston’s words and answer on behalf of the civil servant, with an apology.?

Time will only tell. And the civil service, everywhere, has plenty of time.

Even to make an apology.

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