The word “investigator” conjures up the image of Inspector Gadget, my favourite childhood animation series about a whimsical detective in an oversized trenchcoat holding a mysterious brief case filled with special gadgets. So when I first heard of the Special Ombudsmen Response Team (SORT) who conducts high-profile investigations into systemic issues in Ontario, I couldn’t help but wonder what investigative tools the team used.
In the Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario, “SORT investigations are conducted using a team-based approach with an emphasis on face-to-face recorded interviews and painstaking gathering and review of evidence” (Annual Report 2010-2011). SORT has investigated issues related to the OLG, G20, and the LHIN SPIN. Some of the ongoing investigations include non-emergency medical transportation services, funding of the breast cancer drug Herceptin for small tumours, and the OPP.
But my particular interest was how these investigations are conducted especially under a given time and resource constraint. I had the opportunity to shadow a few meetings where investigators, who are not part of the SORT team, were leading interviews. What was intriguing was the type of questions that were asked first, to navigate the web of issues, and second, to extrapolate root problems. Also, it was commendable to observe the speed at which the interviewers had synthesized interviewee responses to formulate follow-up questions.
Mr. Gareth Jones, Director of SORT, further stressed the importance of timely and fact-based investigations. Previously, Mr. Jones was seconded to the Office of the Ombudsman of the Department of National Defense and Canadian Forces as a Special Advisor and Director of SORT. He is a world-renowned expert in investigation and leads training sessions called “Sharpening Your Teeth” with Mr. Andre Marin. His book, “Conducting Administrative, Oversight & Ombudsman Investigations” essentially covers everything you need to know about effective investigations from planning to report writing to witnesses and interviewing.
Moreover, what this book reflects well, in my opinion, is the commitment of Mr. Jones, Mr. Marin, and the whole staff at the Office of the Ombudsman to successfully and meticulously uncover truth.