Saturday, May 20, 2006

System V Culture

Many people are of the opinion that the system operated by the Local Government Ombudsman could be improved by the Government making small changes to the system.

However, my arguments is that people, not systems, make systems work.

As one example, the Ombudsmen usually suggest that the 1974 Local Authority Act gave them the discretion that allows them to introduce Local Settlements. Whether that is true or not is irrelevant to my argument because even if the Act gave them the discretion they suggest, it still only unlocked the door. The Ombudsmen still had a choice in the matter. They made the decision to go through the door and introduce local settlements. It had nothing to do with the system or the 1974 Local Government Act.

In essence the Ombudsman found a loophole and exploited it by introducing local settlements for the benefit of everyone bar the complainant. The Ombudsmen win because they can terminate cases without having to do much work, the Councils love it because they can hide from the reality of their maladministration and it suits the Government because it keeps costs down and hides the fact that there are serious problems within Local Government.

The point is that no system is perfect and some people will, if they want to, always find a loophole that allows them to exploit the system for their own ends. So yes Government could close the odd loophole by tinkering with the system but whilst the culture within the Ombudsman’s organisation remains the same nothing will really change.

Furthermore, the system worked reasonably well in the early days, it is only over the last 15 years that Local Government Ombudsmen have exploited loopholes in the system for the benefit of themselves and their colleagues in Government. (Local and National).

Looking at another example, just because the system didn’t make Local Government Ombudsmen accountable doesn’t mean that they have to exploit the fact to ruin peoples lives. They had a choice. Just because you can get away with it doesn’t mean you have to do it.

The same can be said about the Council’s freedom to ignore the Ombudsman’s findings, that could be classed as a system deficiency, however, the Ombudsmen could, if they had wanted to, done something about it years ago. The point is they didn’t.

That brings me back to my argument, it’s people that make systems work, people that exploit systems and people that make systems fail.

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