Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Scottish Parliament tries to restrict Ombudeman in the wake of scandals

Too many scandals about crooked politicians and revelations on how public sectors perform, have caused members of the Scottish Paliament so much worry .. they are now trying to restrict the activities of Public Sector Commissioners, better known to some as 'Ombudsmen'

Peter Cherbi ireports on the matter, from his blog "A Diary of Injustice in Scotland" at

Scottish Parliament calls for freeze on Commissioners amid fears of excessive accountability

MSPs have lurched from scandal to scandal over at the Scottish Parliament since it was born in 1999. From fiddling expenses, to undeclared wee bits on the side, to lavish offices for their own personal benefit while doing .. not very much, to rampant rises in the building costs of the Parliament itself, there has scarcely been a week gone by, where another new scandal hasn't emerged from the Parliament which we voted for all those years ago.

It stands to reason, then, that those whose activities, corrupt, crooked, or shall we say, less than honest, absolutely hate it when legislation comes along to make them accountable for their failings ... and since the Parliament is full of fiddles & corruption itself, some examples such as .. Raffan's travelling expenses .. Mcletchie's undeclared taxi rides .... and a lot more .. the occasional MSP caught on the Parliament's security cameras indulging in sex acts with staff, all those undeclared meetings with interested parties, businesses & other special interests with regard to particular legislation to be passed ... with all that in mind, MSPs have now decided to attack plans for public sector commissioners to oversee public services, which badly need oversight of an independent nature - which those services & professions have failed to provide since their own existence.

The proposed commissioners are :
Road Works Commissioner
Scottish Commissioner for Human Rights
Scottish Legal Enforcement Commission
Legal Complaints Commissioner
Police Complaints Commissioner

Now, there are those who say, oh, the present gang of Commissioners are spending too much money and are almost unaccountable ... indeed, Linda Costelloe Baker, the former Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, has stated publicly her office was never audited during her 5 years as SLSO .. but whose fault is that ? not the Commissioners .. it's the fault of the Executive .. and with Scotland having a 1 in 4 public sector workforce, one would have thought the Scottish Executive could have found someone to audit Ms Costelloe Baker's office !

However, the reality of the situation, has at least, been picked up by one of the Finance Committee members - Green MSP Mark Ballard, who said :

"I am concerned that these proposals are part of a backlash from those unhappy with commissioners who have done their job and spoken out on issues and, in the process, made life a little uncomfortable for the powers that be ..."

"...To have robust and effective scrutiny by watchdogs, we must ensure they operate at arm's length from politicians - any moves to direct spending will undermine their ability to act in the public interest."

Mark Ballard is correct. Simply, there are many who are ticked off by what the present Commissioners have done so far in their areas - those being, the :
Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
Scottish Parliamentary Standards Commissioner
Commissioner for Children and Young People
Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland
Scottish Information Commissioner

Why are the MSPs at Holyrood so dead against these proposals ?

Well, just look at what has been revealed over the years regarding the Parliament and it's members .. by using, for instance, the Freedom of Information Act .. where several MSPs have been caught with their fingers in the till ... and a lot of what was eventually dragged out of the Parliament's Corporate body, after many refusals, came with the assistance of the Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion.

Another interesting point in this debate is the types of Commissioners proposed, which are generating so much fuss. Just look at the public sector services affected ... Law, Lawyers, Police, the Courts, Human Rights, even Road Works ... a list of public sector services which badly need oversight in the form of an independent Commissioner (known to some as Ombudsmen) free from political meddling.

Anyone tried to make a complaint that their Human Rights were breeched by a public sector service recently ? The answer from whoever they complained against would be something like .. drop dead .. after a long paper chase coming to nothing .. but a lot more persecution against the complainant simply because there was no one to oversee & safeguard the Human Rights issue in the first place.

Anyone tried to make complaints against the Police ? and then at the end of a long trek through even the HMIC, have to go through equally crooked Police Boards, whose members are just as good at fighting each other as covering up for the deeds of the Police Force they are there to keep an eye on in yet another self regulatory cartel which should have died long ago ?

With at least 5000 complaints a year against Scotlands internationally renowned crooked legal profession, we certainly need a Legal Complaints Commissioner to oversee that gang of criminals .. and even though there is supposed to be independence in complaints against lawyers when the LPLA Bill finally comes into law .. we all know lawyers will only become more inventive in their crooked schemes ... so oversight will certainly be needed of the new complaints procedures, which will doubtless, suffer from time to time of a lack of transparency or common sense, as everything does.

So, why the fuss ? Well, the MSPs claim it's all about money .. that the Commissioners aren't accountable to anyone .. but as we have seen in the past .. MSPs have spent over half a billion pounds on their own Parliament, then go on to claim as much as they can from the public purse, on top of earning £1000 (nearly $2000 a week) .. so it can't really be about money, can it.

No, it's not about money, it's about accountability, transparency, & honesty .. and when there's too much of it, that's a bad thing for the crooks and those who want to cook the books over at the Scottish Parliament and in those public sector services which badly need oversight - independent oversight which isn't subject to fiddling from Scottish Ministers & politicians.. and there's plenty of those yet to be revealed for their undeclared secret benefits on the side ..

Funny isn't it ... we just had a big arguement from the legal profession & judiciary, which demanded the Executive put in place amendments to the LPLA Bill to create independent posts of office so there wouldn't be fiddling of Judicial positions & interference in the complaints process by Ministers .. and, guess what ? Hugh Henry announced those amendments in last Thursday's Parliamentary debate on the LPLA Bill, giving a role for the Lord President, to keep out any possibility of Ministerial fiddling of appointments in the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

Howevr, we now have the same politicians arguing they don't want independent Commissioners who can't be fiddled by Ministers ... doesn't that seem a bit backward ? .. or more simply .. a bit crooked ?

Just who are these politicians arguing the case against the planned Commissioners for ? the members of those same public sectors & professions which will be made more accountable by the existence of new oversight ? or, themselves, who fear too much openness is a bad thing for the public ...

I think the Scotsman report by Peter MacMahon, sums up the situation in a sentence at the end of their article :

"The Scotsman, along with other newspapers, was prevented by the parliamentary authorities from seeking a response from the commissioners who were criticised in the MSPs' report."

What does that say for those same parliamentary authorities & MSPs then ? in one breath, calling for Commissioners Offices to be put on hold due to excuses of funding unaccoutability .. and the same Parliamentarians then go and restrict the present Commissioners from making any comment to the media on the msps report & critisisms of expenditure ?

So much for transparency over at the Scottish Parliament then .. it looks more like a nest of vipers every passing day ...

Read on for the article, from the Scotsman newpaper, at :

Cross-party call to put creation of public-sector commissioners on ice

MSPS today demanded a cull of the burgeoning number of public-sector "tsars" in Scotland. A hard-hitting report from Holyrood's finance committee recommends that no more parliamentary commissioners should be created.

It also calls for the downgrading of the post of the children and young people's commissioner, saying the role, which is held by Professor Kathleen Marshall, should be made accountable to ministers, not to Holyrood.

And the committee demands that the Executive puts the creation of five new "tsars" - a roadworks commissioner, a civil enforcement commissioner, a Scottish commissioner for human rights, a legal complaints commissioner and a police complaints commissioner - on hold.

The cross-party committee also calls for the proposed human rights commissioner, a post being created under legislation going through Holyrood, to be incorporated within the office of Professor Alice Brown, the Scottish public service ombudsman.

The MSPs want legislation to allow parliament to control the budgets of the four commissioners - for information, parliamentary standards, children and public appointments - as well as the ombudsman.

They also want Holyrood to have more say over where the "tsars" have their offices.

The report says the MSPs are "very concerned" at the decision of Kevin Dunion, the information commissioner, to set up in Kinburn Castle in St Andrews.

Des McNulty, the Labour convener of the committee, said: "If the Executive and the parliament follows the principles we have outlined, in future people who make proposals for new commissioners will have to justify why they want to go to the expense of doing that.

"Some people might say that this is locking the stable door after the horse has bolted, but we are now actually calling for the stable door to be closed, as there is still pressure for new bodies to be created."

But Mark Ballard, a Green MSP and committee member, warned: "There have to be firm limits on their overall expenditure, but the public will not get value for money from commissioners that cannot speak out and act as they see fit because they fear the repercussions."

• The Scotsman, along with other newspapers, was prevented by the parliamentary authorities from seeking a response from the commissioners who were criticised in the MSPs' report.

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