Ombudsman Office To Expand Services with Branches Across Belize
The office of the Ombudsman is partnering with local governments across the country to expand its services and broaden its reach. The office’s centralized location in Belize City doesn’t allow easy access to residents from out of the district. Ombudsman, Retired Major Gilbert Swazo, says he met with several mayors to discuss the possibility of establishing branches at the various city and town halls. Swaso says the goal is to improve the office’s accessibility to residents outside of Belize City.
Major H Gilbert Swaso, Ombudsman: “The office as is is city-centric it is only in Belize city. In our view that does not provide the necessary access and connectivity to the people outside of Belize City per se because there’s a cost of admin and logistics and time that is required just to come to a lodge a complaint. While a written complaint can be lodged through e-mail or using any of the gadgets or WhatsApp and those kinds of things sometimes people feel more confident when they’re speaking to you in person to lodge their complaint so in view of that we have been doing consultation and among those consultations is to consult with the mayors of the respective municipalities and the intent of that is to certainly offer accessibility to the Office of the Ombudsman for those complainants who are out district and this is certainly supported by all the mayors who have I had the privilege to have met and so far I have not met with all the mayors at this time. I do know that we still have not met with the mayor of Benque Viejo, we still have not met with the mayor of San Pedro, we still have not met with the mayor of Punta Gorda at the very least I can recall those but I believe all of the other mayors certainly not have that mayor of Belize City but we are stationed here but we intend to meet with all the mayors who we still have not met with.”
The Ombudsman further explained that his office is also working with the Justices of the Peace Association to ensure that complaints lodged at the various municipalities are kept confidential.
Major H Gilbert Swaso, Ombudsman: “So in collaboration with the justice of the peace it is our intent to conduct some training and then out of which we agree that we will appoint at least two justices of the peace who will be able to accept or take complaints for and behalf on the office of the ombudsman. Again so where we are not present and as a matter of fact the justice of the peace usually accompany police officers or other people to make any complaints or to report anything to the police in some cases so it’s a similar function. So we will look at how best for us to collaborate but the idea is one that I believe is feasible but we’ll have to look at the legality, the confidentiality, and all of those issues so that then before we roll out or to effect any such plan it must certainly fall within the legal gamut of the Ombudsman Act but more importantly we cannot compromise confidentiality in any way or form. So essentially we are looking to ensure that it is well within the framework of the law it is something that we can do and once all the processes and the legal issues have been sorted out and if in fact it’s a go then that is another strategy we intend to implement with the view to offer that level of accessibility and connectivity to the general public.”
Retired Major Gilbert Swazo was sworn in as the Ombudsman on February 10, 2023./////