The National Ombudsman received 142 requests and/or complaints from residents of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in 2017.
National Ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen and Children’s Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer presented the 2017 annual report to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Wednesday. The combined 63-page report of the Ombudsman and Children’s Ombudsman included a specific chapter about the Caribbean Netherlands.
In the report, the Ombudsman and Children’s Ombudsman provided an overview of the work that was carried out on or on behalf of the three islands. The Ombudsman is the first-line handler of complaints for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. This means that residents do not have to go first to their own government when they have a complaint, but they can take their grievances directly to the Ombudsman.
“That is why it is so important that the National Ombudsman makes an additional effort to inform the citizens of his role, especially when considering the large geographic distance between the Netherlands and the Caribbean Netherlands. Many people now know how to find their way to the National Ombudsman with complaints about both the Dutch Government services and the local government,” it is stated in the report.
A specialised team of staff members handles the complaints from the islands. This team visits the islands twice per year, in March and November. The team members have contact with both residents and with the government organisations.
The government is provided with information, sometimes in the format of a workshop, about the relationship between residents and government. Consultation hours are held where residents can ask questions and file a complaint.
The Ombudsman makes use of the media and social media to announce its consultation hours. People can also get in touch outside these consultation hours. Residents are making a lot of use of the Ombudsman’s WhatsApp service.
The majority of the complaints can be solved through intervention of the Ombudsman. The annual report specifically mentioned the move of the Central Government Service Caribbean Netherlands RCN to add information about complaint and appeal bodies in letters that are sent to residents.
Another example is health insurance office ZVK and the decision regarding the compensation of the daily allowance after a medical referral abroad. ZVK also took measures to prevent issues with payment of the daily allowance for future medical referrals.
The Ombudsman wrote a report letter to the St. Eustatius Government in January 2017 regarding four complaints. The Ombudsman found all four complaints grounded because the local government had not responded and the handling took too long.
“This causes a needless further escalation. The Ombudsman is concerned about the manner in which the St. Eustatius Government communicates with its citizens. That is why we requested the government to give additional attention to this matter,” it was stated in the annual report. St. Eustatius has enhanced the complaints procedure.
The Children’s Ombudsman stated in the joint annual report that it wants to extend its role as an entity where residents, especially children, can file a complaint. “We will invest in making children and adults more aware of what we do. We will do so in close collaboration with the National Ombudsman.”
The Children’s Ombudsman is the entity to which residents of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba can turn with concerns and complaints. The Children’s Ombudsman focuses on the general welfare of children and children’s rights.
Children’s Ombudsman Kalverboer and her team visited Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba for the first time in November 2016. They used this visit to assess the status of children’s rights. Almost 200 children on the islands were interviewed, while another 264 children completed the questionnaire. Meetings also took place with many professionals. The findings were presented in a 2017 report “If you ask us. The Children’s Ombudsman on children rights tour in the Caribbean Netherlands.”
The Daily Herald.