CAIN Update – 23 June 2016

Items of interest for the Complaints, Accountability, Integrity Network


Bills, Bills, Bills: Essential Services – Power and Water billing and debt management practices in an urban indigenous community
Bagot is an indigenous community in Darwin with approximately 60 houses on one community title. While the water supplier to the community - Power and Water Corporation (PWC) - maintains that it has only ever had a legal relationship with the community title holder, it entered into arrangements in 2008-09 that allowed individual householders to contribute to the costs of water supply. The report considers issues relating to those arrangements in so far as they have impacted on individual householders and the benefits of having arrangements in place that provide for individual contributions. It discusses PWC debt management practices and also recommends that the NT Government and PWC undertake wide-ranging consultations with representatives of relevant indigenous communities to discuss the best approach or approaches to recognising and facilitating payments by individual householders in indigenous communities — and in doing so give careful consideration to the option of providing PWC meters for individual houses and discrete billing for individual householders.
NT Ombudsman, March 2016

Fostering economic development for Aboriginal people in NSW
In this report, the Acting NSW Ombudsman recommends measures to ensure that Government's efforts to foster economic development for Aboriginal people in NSW are successful. "Increasing the economic prosperity of Aboriginal people is critical to improving social outcomes in many areas, such as health, education, child protection and community safety. Economic development is also fundamental to sustaining and renewing Aboriginal culture and language into the future". The Acting Ombudsman's intention in making this report is "to ensure that [his] office's insights from working with Aboriginal communities in NSW will inform the important work of the Department of Education (Aboriginal Affairs) as it develops the Aboriginal Economic Prosperity Framework for NSW. The Framework will provide an important platform for addressing disadvantage in Aboriginal communities and for promoting economic independence."
NSW Ombudsman, May 2016

Agency internal complaint management

In recognition of the importance of promoting robust internal complaint handling systems in NT public sector agencies, the Office of the Ombudsman has undertaken a joint project with the Power and Water Corporation, Jacana Energy and the Department of Business to develop a Complaint Management Framework and Model Policy for the NTPS.
Complaint Management Framework
Complaint Management Model Policy
NT Ombudsman, June 2016

ANZOA conference papers

Australia and New Zealand Ombudsman Association- Bi-ennial Conference Papers 2016
A variety of conference papers touching on ombudsman and complaint handling practice, integrity and corruption bodies, recent cases on natural justice, dispute resolution and technology, professional development, dispute resolution technology, protecting the most vulnerable and outreach to indigenous communities.
ANZOA, May 2016

Administering regulatory offences

Investigation into public transport fare evasion enforcement
Ombudsman report of investigation aimed at assessing whether public transport fare enforcement in Victoria is fair and equitable. "Fare evasion costs the state tens of millions of dollars; the vast majority of public transport users who buy tickets do not want to subsidise the travel of those who don't. Fair enough. We expect to see a system that effectively deters offenders. The evidence however of this investigation is overwhelming: the system is disproportionate and poorly targeted. The current approach has not got the balance right between financial imperative and fairness. It hits the vulnerable and innocently ignorant and fails to focus on recidivist fare evaders. Not only is it unfair, it is costly."
Victorian Ombudsman, May 2016

Automated decision-making – Vulnerable youths

Administration of Income Management for 'Vulnerable Youth': Department of Human Services (DHS): Centrelink and Department of Social Services
"This report highlights problems identified concerning administration of the 'vulnerable youth' measure of IM which commenced in July 2013. Administration of this measure of IM differs from other IM measures due to its greater reliance on automated decision-making. Following receipt of a complaint from a person subject to this measure, the Commonwealth Ombudsman identified a number of problems which prompted a broader assessment of the legislation, policy and procedures relevant to the vulnerable youth measure, as well as DHS's template letters, decision-making templates and workflows. Issues of concern included failures of the automated decision-making process and reviews to consider all mandatory legislative criteria; the lack of any process to allow DHS to give effect to the legislative power to revoke a determination and exit a person from IM when that person is otherwise eligible; problems with DHS's internal processes for referring exclusion requests to an authorised decision-maker to make an exclusion decision; decision letters that do not provide adequate reasons for decisions, and a failure to inform people of their rights."
Commonwealth Ombudsman, February 2016

Role of independent supervisory bodies

Report on hearings in relation to the Role and Remit of an Ombudsman
An Irish examination of the fundamental principles that should underpin the establishment, functioning and responses of government to Ombudsman and similar oversight offices.[v40]-[FINAL-TO-PRINTERS]-21-1-16.pdf
Irish Parliament, Joint Committee on public service oversight and petitions, January 2016

Contracted NGOs and service providers

Whether Federation of Polish Organisations in SA Incorporated committed an act of maladministration in public administration
In this case, the Ombudsman determined that he had the power to investigate the actions of a NGO that received grant funds from Government. FoPO is an incorporated association that received funds under a contractual agreement with a Minister. FoPO itself is not a public authority but Schedule 1 of the ICAC Act (SA) defines a public officer to include 'a person performing contract work if the work is performed for a public authority or the Crown authority, the public authority or, in any other case, the Premier'. The Ombudsman determined he had jurisdiction to investigate FoPO regarding an allegation that FoPO had misspent grant funds. The Ombudsman concluded that there was evidence of substantial mismanagement of public resources, and an unauthorised use of public resources and therefore that FoPO had committed maladministration in public administration.
South Australian Ombudsman, July 2015

Provision of a link in CAIN updates is not an endorsement of a website or a publication. Readers must make up their own minds about the value of any information provided or views expressed.