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17 February 2010

From: Zubair Ahmed

Subject: Back-to-Office Report: Advanced Investigative Training for


Administrative
Watchdogs (Bangkok, Thailand - 8 to 11 February 2010)
RETA 6465: Strengthening the Asian Ombudsman Association
(AOA)

I. Introduction

1. Focused training is recognized by AOA as an effective activity that can


facilitate quick and direct understanding of successful service delivery tools
and methodologies that are considered central to ombudsman functions. At
the operational level, the core mandate of the ombudsman institutions has
been recognized as the ability “to diagnose, investigate and redress injuries
caused to persons through maladministration”. Hence the importance of
diagnostic, investigative and redressal mechanisms and tools to be
employed by committed and knowledgeable ombudsman staff. Skills and
commitment based on an understanding of ombudsmanship are equally
important qualities to have in the operational level staff because they
interact with aggrieved human beings during the complaint handling
process. A seminar, entitled Sharpening Your Teeth: Advanced Investigative
Training for Administrative Watchdogs was held in Bangkok, Thailand from 8
to 11 February 2010. The training was conducted by the Ombudsman
Ontario, specifically Mr. Andre Marin, Ontario Ombudsman, and Mr. Gareth
Jones, its head of the Special Office Response Team (SORT).

2. I was part of a team, which assisted the Ontario Ombudsman in the


conduct of the seminar. Among others:
a. Ensured the attendance and active participation of the participants in
all training courses and workshops;
b. Provided support to project analyst in distribution of subsistence
allowance and MTE, and collecting boarding passes, air tickets and
receipts;
c. facilitated the distribution and administration of knowledge product
questionnaires to the participants;
d. conducted evaluation of the training.

II. Mission Findings

3. A total of 39 participants representing 21 member institutions from 12


countries attended the training. Of those who were invited to join, only Sri
Lanka was not able to send representatives. Likewise, all participants
arrived the day before the seminar and were received and assisted in the
airport by the staff of Ombudsman Thailand with the exception of the
participants from Azerbaijan whose flight was delayed and arrived on the day
of the seminar.
4. Training seminar started promptly at 8:30 am on 8 February 2010 (and
thereafter) following the registration by the participants. Upon the request of
the RETA team, Thailand Ombudsman provided staff to help in the
registration. The opening ceremonies was facilitated by the International
Consultant who explained the context of the seminar and the other activities
conducted under RETA 6465: Strengthening the Asian Ombudsman
Association (AOA). It was graced by Mr. Jean Pierre Verbiest, the Country
Director of Thailand Resident Mission, who welcomed the participants and
gave the Opening Remarks.
5. After the opening ceremonies, training started with a short lecture on
the meaning of systemic investigation. The first session taught participants
on how to identify systemic cases and conducting effective and efficient
systemic investigations. Tips to counter arguments against conducting
systemic investigations were likewise delivered by the trainers. The morning
session ended with a presentation on the Eight Principles of Excellent
Investigation
6. The afternoon session of the first day was devoted on examining
investigative challenges normally encountered by investigators. Trainers
presented the case assessment template developed by Ombudsman Ontario
to help them decide whether and what to investigate. Thereafter, discussion
shifted on designing investigation plans, which sought to help participants
structure and prepare an investigation plan that will act as a road map
throughout the investigation. The afternoon session ended with the first
case study – Avatin – which examined how the Ombudsman Ontario
investigated the arbitrary limit set by the government on the number of
treatments that patient can receive. First day ended according to schedule.
It could be noticed however that the participants were still warming up to the
trainers and their co-participants.
7. Second day started with registration to ensure that all participants are
accounted for. After explaining the mechanics, the participants were divided
into 5 groups for the first group exercise – to develop an investigation plan.
Participants took the exercise seriously exceeding the time given them to
develop the plan because of various suggestions made. Groups were then
made to report their plain, which was critique and commented to by the
trainers. After the group presentations, a second case study was made
which focused on how a special investigation, highlighting significant
systemic issues impacting a vulnerable segment of the population was
planned and executed.
8. The afternoon session was devoted to witnesses and interviewing – i.e.
how to identify, prioritize and interview witnesses. Topics covered include:
principles of effective interviewing; best practices for preparing and
conducting an effective interview; roadblocks (and how to deal with them);
dealing with evasive and uncooperative witnesses; strategies for maximizing
an interviewers success; common errors and how to avoid them.
9. After the mini-lecture, the participants were given a fact scenario, to
be used for the group exercise the following day. Participants were asked to
study the fact scenario and be prepared for the group exercise the following
day. At the end of the second day, the first set of questionnaire for the
knowledge product was distributed with the instructions that the same must
be answered and returned before the end of the seminar.
10. After registration, third training day started with a lecture on
whistleblowing. Trainers explained the importance of whistleblowing to the
success of an effective oversight investigation. An in-depth session on
strategies for dealing with these vulnerable and often invaluable witnesses
ensued, which culminated in another group exercise. Using the fact scenario
distributed the previous day, participants were grouped into 5 and were
given instructions for the exercise.

11. The afternoon session dealt with documents, wish list and physical
evidence. Its focused was on the type of evidence that will be needed and
how to obtain them. Likewise, participants were taught on the proper way of
assessing the evidence on hand. The session ended with another cases
study involving a police pursuit that ended in the death of an innocent
civilian. Demonstrating that this case raises compelling systemic issues, the
trainer analyzed the various aspects of the investigation and highlighted the
lessons learned that are application to all investigative agencies. During this
session, 3 more sets of questionnaires were distributed to the participants.
12. The last day was on report writing. Trainers made a presentation on
drafting a compelling, persuasive and highly readable report and identified
some of the roadblocks that can plague an investigation. Because this
session ended ahead of its schedule, the afternoon lecture on effective
presentation of investigation findings were moved down to the morning
session, enabling the training to end at almost 1 pm. The lecture taught the
participants the different methods of informing their stakeholders of the
results of their investigation. The trainers put heavy emphasis on the use of
information technology, which they claimed is cheap and effective. At the
end of the lecture, participants were asked to evaluate the training. An
evaluation form was distributed to, and collected from, the participants.
13. Training seminar ended with the distribution of the Certificate of
Completion issued by the Ombudsman Ontario. Class pictures were taken
afterwards.
14. Details of the proposed attendees are as under;
Proposed attendees: Total 43
Institutes allotted two slots;

(1) Wafaqi Mohtasib Pakistan (2) Sindh


(3) Punjab (4) AJK
(5) Balochistan (6) Tax
(7) M.P India (8) Azerbaijan
(9) Kyrgyz (10) Malaysia
(11) The Philipines (12) Vietnam
(13) Indonesia (14) Srilanka
(15) China (16) Thailand
Institutes allotted One slot
(1) U.P India (2) Insurance
(3) Banking (4) Korea
(5) Hong Kong
(6) Japan (Regretted to attend training)
(7) Tataristan (Despite of several reminders they did not respond)
(8) Uzbekistan (Despite of several reminders they did not respond)
(9) Macao (Regretted to attend training)
(10) Iran (Despite of several reminders they did not respond)
(11) Yemen (Sent nomination late and could not get visa at time)
Institutes who attended and number of attendees
(1) W M Pakistan 2
(2) Sindh 1 (Second attended cannot attend due to personnel
reasons)
(3) Punjab 1 (Second attended cannot attend due to personnel
reasons)
(4) AJK 2
(5) Balochistan 2
(6) Tax 2
(7) M.P India 2
(8) Azerbaijan 2
(9) Kyrgyz 1 (Second attendee lost her passport therefore can not
attend)
(10) Malasia 2
(11) Philipines 2
(12) Vietnam 3 (Agreed to shoulder air ticket cost of third
attendee)
(13) Indonesia 2
(14) China 2
(15) Thailand 5 (Being local institute provided extra slots)
(16) U.P India 2
(17) Insurance 1
(18) Banking 1
(19) Korea 2
(20) Hong Kong 2 (Agreed to shoulder air ticket cost of second
attendee)
----------------------------------
Total 39
Attendance
All 39 attendees attended complete course.

Attendees who actively participated in discussions:


(1) Wafaqi Mohtasib Pakistan
(2) The Philippines
(3) Punjab
(4) China
(5) Hong Kong
(6) Tax
(7) M.P India
(8) Korea
(9) U.P.India
Some observations of the trainer (Mr.Gareth Jons)
Once the initial ice was broken the vast majority of participants contributed
actively, particularly in the discussion arising after the group exercises. Both
Andre and I were genuinely impressed by the quality of contributions from all
participants.

In respect of take up, we find that SYT attendees adapt bits of what we teach
to their own circumstances, which is exactly how it should be. Some embrace
the approach in its totality, which is great. I believe that everyone who
attended will use the parts that work for them. We were both very impressed
with the enthusiasm and commitment of everyone who came. Plus they were
really nice people - which always is a bonus!

Based on preliminary comments of participants, training seemed to be


successful in achieving its objectives.