What Happens When Government Makes an Error?

By Geoff McLennan

We live in a year of recalls and increased quality control. Most automakers have been besieged by recalls, costing millions in recovery and litigation. Regulatory agencies have that authority. Yet what happens when government makes a mistake, costing the public and businesses millions?

Geoff july 17Take for example a licensing agency’s mistake on one or hundreds of licensees. Consumers are encouraged by the agency to check the online license record and it wrongly displays the licensee is out of compliance. The consumer skips that business thinking it is dishonest due online status. Weeks or months later, the media discloses that the licensing agency has a huge backlog and the online records are not reliable. Meanwhile, several licensees and some small businesses may have lost business with considerable damage to staff and suppliers. What recourse does the small business have? The same scenario could happen to a licensed practitioner such as a nurse, doctor or therapist. Recent media stories have described these government mistakes without any remedy to those harmed.

Typically, government mistakes are disclosed by audits, court orders or legislative budget augmentations; let’s say close to a “recall” for quality control. Reaction by the offending agency could include changing management, increasing staffing, replacing or taking legal action against vendors or consultants. Meanwhile, what about recompensing the licensee harmed by the apparent mistakes? Could a fee refund help? What about a letter of apology issued to all licensees with a plan to prevent future mistakes?

Has your agency, board or commission been subject to what seems like a recall on services? What happened to reconcile the parties harmed by the mistake?

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