Complaints Commission

The Office of the Complaints Commission was established in 1994 in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The current Complaints Commissioner is Mrs. Cynthia Astwood, OBE.

The Office investigates complaints of maladministration by Public Authorities and Institutions, promotes effectiveness and efficiency within services rendered to the community, educates persons about their rights and duties in a free and democratic society, and provides a service to the public in fairness, justice and without prejudice.

We aim to play our part in improving public services by providing citizens with form of recourse when good service standards are not met.

The Complaints Commission can investigate any action taken by a public body, including: grievances and conflicts in the workplace; performance issues, discrimination; harassment; corruption; maladministration, such as delays, bias, negligence, abuse of power, failing to give reason for a decision, not following through on a commitment.

A complainant must first exhaust the complaints processes within any government department or statutory body concerned, only if that complaint is not handled in a professional manner, where no satisfactory resolution has been reached, can a complaint be submitted to the Commission.

The Commission cannot investigate complaints about the Governor, Cabinet, House of Assembly, Justices, Magistrates, the Police or Chief Auditors, where separate complaints arrangements are in place.

In carrying out investigations the Complaints Commissioner has the same powers as a Magistrate, and is able to enter and inspect any premises of any public office and, where necessary, retain or copy documents.

Background Information

  • The Complaints Commissioner is an Ombudsman.
  • An Ombudsman, a word of Swedish origin, is an official appointed to receive, investigate and report on private citizens’ complaints about Government.
  • The Complaints Commissioner is appointed by the Governor after consulting with the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition.
  • The Commissioner is wholly independent of all Government Officials.
  • The office of the Complaints Commissioner is enshrined under Section 99 of the Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution.
  • The Office of the Complaints Commissioner was first set up in 1994 in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
  • There have been three previous Complaints Commissioners.
  • Mrs. Cynthia Astwood took up the appointment on September 1st, 2013.

The Role of the Complaints Commissioner

  • The office was established for the purpose of assisting aggrieved persons who believe that they have suffered injustices at the hands of Public Officers employed by Government Departments and Statutory Bodies.
  • The aim of the Office of the Complaints Commissioner is to investigate in a fair and independent manner complaints against Government to ascertain whether injustice has been caused by maladministration.
  • Maladministration, this is when a Government Department or Authority makes a wrong decision, acts outside its statutory authority and fails to take required action. Some examples are:
    • Unnecessary delays, bias, negligence.
    • Failure to follow proper procedures.
    • Wrong decisions and improper service.
    • Discourtesy.
  • The Ombudsman is a small man’s institution because proceedings before him are informal, speedy and free of cost.
  • There is no fee for filing a complaint, nor is an Attorney at law required.

Jurisdiction of the Complaints Commissioner

  • In carrying out an investigation the Commissioner has the same powers as a Judge siting in the Grand Court.
  • The office will only seek to address complaints of an improper nature which include:
  • Grievances and conflicts in the workplace.
  • Performance issues.
  • Discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age and etc.
  • Harassment and corrupt conduct.
  • Maladministration matters.
  • The Office will not accept or address any grievances for investigation concerning the following persons or bodies as laid out under the Constitution in Schedule 1, Section 4 of the Complaints Commission (Ombudsman) Ordinance 16 of 1987 (March 1st, 1988):
    • The Governor
    • The Executive Council
    • The Legislative Council
    • The Chief Justice and any Judge of the Supreme Court and any Judge of the Court of appeal.
    • The Magistrate
    • The Police
    • The Chief Auditor and staff.

Making a Complaint

  • Complaints must usually be made in writing and addressed to the Commissioner.
  • Complaints may be submitted via email, letter or by visiting the Office.
  • Upon receipt of complaint, it will be carefully and thoroughly scrutinized.
  • An investigation may follow to obtain substantial evidence from documents and witnesses that will be interviewed from both parties involved.
  • Investigations are carried out in the most confidential manner and without prejudice.