The Ombudsman's Office
The Ombudsman of Ontario is an Officer of the Provincial Legislature who is independent of government and political parties. The Ombudsman’s job is to ensure government accountability through effective oversight of the administration of broader public sector and government services. The Ombudsman is appointed for a five-year renewable term and his powers and authorities are contained in legislation under the Ombudsman Act.
The Ombudsman’s office employs about 100 staff. The following provides an overview of the various teams and how they work.
Special Ombudsman Response Team (SORT)
The Special Ombudsman Response Team (SORT) was created in 2005 to conduct specialized systemic investigations on high-profile issues affecting large numbers of people. SORT investigations are conducted after a thorough study of the issues and only after the Ombudsman is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to warrant an investigation. SORT investigations include extensive document review and witness interviews. Witness interviews are often taped in order to ensure accuracy. Findings and recommendations produced after a SORT investigation are generally made public, once the Ombudsman’s report is submitted to the Legislature.
SORT investigations are considered where:
- there is a serious and sensitive issue with a high public interest component;
- there are broad systemic implications;
- the facts of the complaint are complex and/or not agreed upon and;
- there is no likelihood of an informal resolution to the complaint.
SORT consists of a group of experienced investigators who conduct complex, issue-driven investigations within tight time frames according to structured investigation plans.
The operations team, led by the Deputy Ombudsman, includes an early resolutions team and an investigations team. The early resolutions team operates as the office’s front line, taking in complaints, assessing them and providing advice, guidance and referrals. Early resolution officers use a variety of conflict resolution techniques to resolve complaints that fall within the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction. The investigations team is comprised of experienced investigators who conduct issue-driven, focused and timely investigations of both individual and systemic complaints.
This team, led by the office’s general counsel, supports the Ombudsman and his staff, overseeing human resources, ensuring that the office functions within its legislated mandate and providing expert advice in support of the resolution and investigation of complaints. Members of the team play a key role in the review and analysis of evidence during investigations and the preparation of reports and recommendations.
In addition to publishing the Annual and SORT reports, as well as maintaining the office’s website and overseeing outreach activities, the communications team provides support to the Ombudsman in media interviews, press conferences, speeches, and public statements on the results of investigations.
Corporate and Administrative Services
The Corporate and Administrative Services team provides support in the areas of finance, human resources, administration, and information technology.