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Bar president: Ombudsman-type system could work for private sector complaints

The Ombudsman Bill provides for the power of an ombudsman to investigate any legitimate complaints against any government department or division, but President of the Bahamas Bar Association Kahlil Parker believes a similar system could work for complaints against private sector entities.

“There are lots of situations where there are significant asymmetries of power between the public and private sectors, where an ombudsman or a financial services authority-type structure, when you’re dealing with these entities, would be helpful,” he said in a recent interview with Guardian Business.

There has been no movement on the Ombudsman Bill since it was tabled in Parliament more than a year ago.

“We have to revisit the regulators that we do have, and make sure that they are performing their functions, make sure that the insurance companies, for example, are being regulated, with a view to making sure that the consuming public has an advocate and there is transparent adjudication of complaints.”

Governor of the Central Bank of The Bahamas John Rolle has said previously that the institution was considering the creation of a financial ombudsman in an effort to boost financial consumer protection.

He said in 2017 that the Office of the Financial Ombudsman (OFO) would be an independent body, which would seek to promote stronger mechanisms to handle consumer complaints.

Parker said the Bahamas Bar Association supports any mechanism that provides more support for Bahamians.

“One of our mandates statutorily is to promote positive law reform. I myself am a proponent of government oversight, and I believe that the ombudsman premise is a good one to make sure that you have an avenue of complaint. I believe that we need more avenues for Bahamians to have their complaints independently investigated and adjudicated upon. I think that freedom of information is tied up into all of that,” he said.

“You have to create an environment where those who have power cannot act with impunity and so any considered step in that direction would be welcomed. That is something that we have privately and publicly supported, and I think that it is something that we need.”

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