Ombudsman role to become full time

Yukon's next ombudsman will have a full-time job. The government announced this week its intention to hire a full-time ombudsman by May 1.

Yukon’s next ombudsman will have a full-time job.

The government announced this week its intention to hire a full-time ombudsman by May 1.

“I commend them for making that step, and it will be the start of a re-build of the office,” said Ombudsman Tim Koepke.

The current position is half-time, and responsibility is divided between roles as the ombudsman and as the information and privacy commissioner.

Koepke submitted his resignation earlier this month in hopes that the position would become full time.

When he took the job, he was clear about the fact that he was only interested in a half-time position, he said in an interview following his resignation.

“Clearly, the evidence is that it should be a full-time position. I’m not interested in it, so the best way for me to basically encourage changes and recommendations to be implemented was to give notice of my departure.”

His resignation is effective May 1. That’s a little more than a year into his five-year term.

In August of 2012 Koepke commissioned a full review of the office of the ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner.

The government approved a budget increase of up to $30,000 for the project.

The final report was released Feb. 1, and a key recommendation was to increase the ombudsman’s role to a full-time position.

The ombudsman reports to the members’ services board, an all-party committee of the legislative assembly.

The board met on Feb. 19 to begin reviewing the recommendations in the report.

In addition to committing to the full-time position, the board decided to begin the process for recruiting a new ombudsman.

“These two decisions were linked,” said MLA David Laxton, who chairs the board, in a press release. “With Mr. Koepke’s resignation becoming effective on May 1, the board knew it had to look at recruiting a successor. At the same time the recruitment process could not begin until we made a decision on whether the position would become full-time or remain half-time.”

Past commissioners, too, have lobbied for it to become a full-time position, arguing that the job is far too big to manage with only 20 hours a week.

The ombudsman’s job is to ferret out unfairness within government.

The recent report recommended several other changes to the structure of the office as well.

One key recommendation was to improve the relationship between the office and the government by establishing formal channels and protocols for communication between the two.

Another was to revise the Ombudsman Act to allow “own motion” initiatives. This would allow the ombudsman’s office to investigate problems it discovers in government, instead of being limited to following up on complaints from others.

The government has not yet responded to the recommendations of the report beyond its commitment to the full-time position.

“I’m hoping that they will eventually endorse the recommendations and act on them,” said Koepke earlier this month.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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