Ombudsman Nooapii Tearea of Te Mato Akamoeau or the Ombudsman’s Office recently presented his Annual Report for 2018/19 to Parliament pursuant to s. 26 of the Ombudsman’s Act 1984. This is the first annual report since 2005 and so congratulations are in order to the hardworking team of the Ombudsman’s Office.
The Ombudsman’s Act gives the Ombudsman the powers to investigate the administrative conduct of Government Ministries and Crown Agencies to ensure the transparent and accountable conduct of public affairs. The jurisdiction of the Ombudsman has expanded over the years to encompass complaints under the Official Information Act 2008, complaints about unlawful discrimination under the Disability Act 2008, and complaints about Police conduct under the Police Act 2012.
Despite being a small Office, with limited resources, Tearea’s team have managed to handle numerous complaints using a flexible approach to reach an early resolution of complaints. The Office has used alternative dispute resolution approaches ranging from family conferences between aggrieved Parties and Government Agencies to the establishment of working groups to address complaints with multiple issues relating to one or more Agencies. They have also strengthened their relationships with specialist complaints bodies like the NZ Health and Disability Commissioner and the Independent Police Conduct Authority in NZ.
Part of the challenges being faced by the Ombudsman is around the delays by Government Ministries and Crown Agencies in providing information when requested. This is often due to staff absences and poor record-keeping.