Publications & Resources
Office of the Ombudsman Annual Report 2013/14
Posted: January 14, 2015
Summary of the Ombudsman’s 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 Ombudsman’s 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 Ombudsman’s 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.
|Organization||Number of Cases 2013-14||Percentage of all cases within authority||Number of cases 2012-13||Percentage Change from 2012-13|
|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%|
|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%|
|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 Ombudsman’s total inquiries received.
The chart below compares the numbers recorded by the Ombudsman’s 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.
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 client’s 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 Ombudsman’s 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.
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 woman’s 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 Aid’s client account services department and wasn’t 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 client’s 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.
|Number of contacts recorded by LAO||33||24||47||45||53||74||75||107||66|
|Numbers of contacts recorded by the Ombudsman’s 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.
Case studies or special reports LAO was the focus of
|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 Ombudsman’s 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 Ombudsman’s 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|
The Ombudsman’s 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 Ombudsman’s Twitter account reached more than 20,000 followers
- The following for the office on Facebook and YouTube also increased
Following the recent election, Ontario’s 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, children’s 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 Ombudsman’s 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.
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.