Publications & Resources

Office of the Ombudsman Annual Report 2013/14


Posted: January 14, 2015

Summary of the Ombudsmans 2013-14 Report on LAO

The Office of the Ombudsman investigates complaints about services provided by the Government of Ontario and its organizations. LAO receives inquiries from the Ombudsmans Early Resolution Officers on behalf of members of the public. Many of the inquiries received by the Ombudsman are questions that can be answered by the Ombudsmans Office and do not require any assistance from LAO. The Operations section of the Office, which consists of Early Resolution Officers and Investigators, focuses on resolving individual cases. Cases that cannot be informally resolved are referred for formal investigation, while others are brought to the attention of the senior government officials and successfully addressed.


Details

Top 15 Provincial Government Organizations and Programs Complained About in 2013-14

(courtesy of 2013-14 Ombudsman Annual Report)

Organization Number of Cases 2013-14 Percentage of all cases within authority Number of cases 2012-13 Percentage Change from 2012-13
Hydro One 6,961 38.6% 328 2,000%
Family Responsibility Office 1,157 6.42% 794 45%
Ontario Disability Support Program 621 3.44% 565 10%
Workplace Safety and Insurance Board 552 3.06% 609 -10%
Developmental Services Program 501 2.78% 631 -20%
Driver Licensing 244 1.35% 380 -35%
Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee 180 1.00% 162 11%
Legal Aid Ontario 150 0.83% 201 -25%
Ontario Health Insurance Plan 149 0.83% not in top 15 -
Driver Licensing Medical Review Section 141 0.78% not in top 15 -
Landlord and Tenant Board 138 0.77% 139 -1%
Ontario Student Assistance Program 134 0.74% 166 -20%
Service Ontario 124 0.69% not in top 15 -
Community Care Access Centre 122 0.68% not in top 15 -
Municipal Property Assessment Corp. 116 0.64% 108 7%

The following chart illustrates our rank in the standings of the Ombudsmans office in previous years.

Annual year Ranking
2013-14 8th out of the top 15
2012-13 8th out of the top 15
2011-12 6th out of the top 15
2010-11 6th out of the top 15
2009-10 15th out of the top 20
2008-09 Not in top 20
2007-08 19th out of the top 20
2006-07 20th out of the top 20
2005-06 Not in top 20

  • The percentage of inquiries regarding LAO that were made to the Office of the Ombudsman in 2013-14 remains consistent. For past nine years, we have always been between 0.83-1.28 per cent of the Ombudsmans total inquiries received.

  • The chart below compares the numbers recorded by the Ombudsmans office as compared to the number of contacts recorded by LAO. We find it encouraging that many of the inquiries can be resolved by the Office of the Ombudsman using their knowledge about LAO. This year, we were contacted regarding 66 matters but there were 150 inquiries received regarding LAO. Last year, we were contacted regarding 107 matters. Therefore, the inquiries received this year have decreased by 39% since 2012-13.

  • View the text alternative for the number of contacts chart.

    Chart comparing the numbers recorded by the Ombudsmans office as compared to the number of contacts recorded by LAO with text alternative available below.
    2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010 2010-2011 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015
    Number of contacts recorded by LAO 33 24 47 45 53 74 75 107 66
    Numbers of contacts recorded by the Ombudsmans office 159 154 141 112 122 125 159 201 150

    Of the 66 inquiries received from the Office of the Ombudsman, 4 matters were determined to be substantiated.

    • On two occasions, it was confirmed that a client's change of solicitor request had been refused but a notice was never sent to the client. As an apology,:

      • an opinion certificate was issued to one client
      • an appeal to the Area Committee was allowed for the other client even though the appeal deadline had expired
    • The clients debt was removed when documents in the hard copy file confirmed that the original contributory certificate had been amended to be non-contributory. This is the matter that was highlighted in the case study section of the Ombudsmans report.

    • A client alleged that she was waiting for a response to her complaint from the District Office. Although the lawyer had received a response, the decision had not been relayed to the client. The District Office then sent a response directly to the client.

  • In 2013-14, the inquiries covered issues such as application and certificate status from both the District Offices and the Client Service Centre, appeals at both Area Committee and Provincial Office levels, policy information and processes in Client Account Services, Lawyer Services and Payments, Investigations and Complaints.

    District office / Client Service Centre = 47%, Appeals = 32%, Policy = 12%, and Departments = 9%
  • For the first time in three years, LAO was the focus of a case study in the annual report:

    A woman complained to the Ombudsman that a collection agency was asking her to repay an unpaid debt of $5,900 to Legal Aid Ontario. She had used the services of a Legal Aid lawyer in 2004 in custody proceedings involving her grandchildren, but said she was never told she would have to pay. She tried calling Legal Aid for clarification of the decade-old debt, but got no response. Ombudsman staff asked Legal Aid to review the womans file. It revealed that she had signed an agreement in 2004 to reimburse the agency, but the debt was forgiven in 2007 because her financial situation changed and she was no longer required to pay. This change was never passed on to Legal Aids client account services department and wasnt reflected on her account. When they discovered this, Legal Aid staff immediately let the woman know she did not owe anything, and the collection efforts ceased.

    This client had not contacted the LAO Complaints department but brought her concern directly to the Ombudsman. Once the Complaints department was advised of the concern, a review was conducted and the Complaints Manager discovered the discrepancy and contacted the Client Account Services department with the findings. At that time, the clients debt was immediately written off and an apology was provided.

    The Complaints Department has focussed on increasing our visibility to the public to ensure that clients are aware of the option of contacting the Complaints department with any concerns.

Case studies or special reports LAO was the focus of

Annual year Historically
2012-13 LAO was not the focus of any case studies or special reports
2011-12 LAO was not the focus of any case studies or special reports
2010-11 LAO was the focus of one Ombudsman investigation (Client Account Services [CAS] matter). There were five matters which were the subject of a second inquiry (three CAS matters and two District Office matters). Of that number, there were two matters that were the subject of a third inquiry (two CAS matters). LAO was the focus of two case studies in the Ombudsmans annual report
2009-10 There was a further follow up to the Richard Wills matter. LAO was the focus of two case studies There were two matters which were the subject of a second inquiry (both were CAS matters)
2008-09 The Office of the Ombudsman wrote a follow up to the Richard Wills matter
2007-08 LAO was the focus of one of the Ombudsmans SORT (Special Ombudsman Response Team) investigations. It was named A Test of Wills regarding the handling of accounts for client Richard Wills.
2005-06 LAO was the focus of one case study

Considerations

The Ombudsmans office continues to be increasing its visibility which, in turn, resulted in an increase of 37% in call volumes compared to 2012-13. As well, in 2013-14:

  • there were 1,205 print articles and 1,203 news items on radio and television in Ontario and across Canada
  • The Ombudsman was honoured by two magazines in 2013-2014, as part of their Most Influential lists. In August 2013, he was named one of the top 25 most influential lawyers in Canada by Canadian Lawyer. In September 2013, Toronto Life chose him as one of its 50 most influential people in Toronto.
  • the Ombudsmans Twitter account reached more than 20,000 followers
  • The following for the office on Facebook and YouTube also increased

Following the recent election, Ontarios information and privacy commissioner called on Premier Kathleen Wynne to change the law so there would be penalties for destroying public documents to evade access-to-information rules. Premier Wynne replied that she would do that by re-introducing what was called Bill 179 before the election, a batch of reforms to public-sector accountability and oversight that the government introduced in March but that died when the legislature was dissolved. The reforms addressed what the Office of the Ombudsman considers to be an accountability gap: the inability of their office to investigate the MUSH sector of municipalities, universities, school boards, hospitals and long-term care facilities, childrens aid societies and police. These areas are within the jurisdiction of every other provincial Ombudsman.

In an attempt to maintain our relationship with this organization, the Complaints Manager started the year with a personal meeting with the Manager of the Early Resolution Officers, the Senior Counsel and the Director of Investigations to clarify expectations regarding notification of the closing of a file. As an additional resource for the Ombudsmans Office, a copy of the Complaints e-learning module was provided to be distributed to their staff. The Complaints Manager was also permitted to attend the annual Sharpening Your Teeth seminar which provided great insight into the processes of that office.


Conclusion

LAO will continue to enhance our relationship with the Office of the Ombudsman and utilize the subjects of inquiries to identify possible gaps in our policies and procedures.