CAIN Update – 27 September 2016

Items of interest for the Complaints, Accountability, Integrity Network

Using external investigators

The use of external investigators by NSW Government agencies: Discussion Paper
A discussion paper in which the NSW Ombudsman identifies a large number of issues that can arise when an agency engages external investigators. As the paper notes, the engagement of external investigators is becoming far more common with the closure or reduction in size of internal investigative units. However, this new approach raises its own challenges for agencies.
NSW Ombudsman, July 2016

Personnel investigations - delay

Department for Communities & Social Inclusion – Suspension of a trainee
An officer reported that two employees had, on many occasions, smoked marijuana and drank on duty while supporting a client of Disability Services. One employee (the Trainee) was suspended from duty with pay until further notice. There was considerable delay in progressing the investigation. The Ombudsman found that the fact that the Trainee was on paid suspension for 12 months before an application was lodged with the Commission or the allegations were provided to him was maladministration — that the delay in investigating the allegations was unreasonable, resulting in administrative error — and the delay in providing the allegations to the Trainee was unreasonable, resulting in an administrative error.
SA Ombudsman, May 2016

Conflict resolution

The role of the Ombudsman in conflict resolution
A variety of articles relating to the role and functioning of the Ombudsman in conflict resolution. Includes Conflict resolution at universities: Ombudsman mediation as a tool? (Josef Leidenfrost, Austria) — A complaint to the ombudsman – viewed from three different perspectives (Friedrich Glasl, Austria) — Ombudsman mediation in Namibia (Angela Mickley, Germany) — The Ombudsman under the banner of heterogeneity and permanence (Sascha Ferz and Karin Sonnleitner, Austria) — Conflict Escalation by Complainants (Chris Wheeler, Australia).
International Ombudsman Institute, May 2016


Upholding the right to life and health: A review of the deaths in care of people with disability in Queensland: A systemic advocacy report
Articles 10 and 25 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities articulate obligations to uphold a person's right to life and right to the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination on the basis of disability. This report provides evidence to suggest that relevant sectors within Queensland require improvement to ensure that the State effectively upholds these obligations.
Office of the Public Advocate, Queensland, March 2016


Investigation into prisoner's right to exercise at Auckland prison
The investigation involved a complaint that the Department of Corrections was denying prisoners the opportunity to exercise in the open air. The complaint highlighted a recurring issue of prisoners at Auckland Prison's East Division 1 not receiving the opportunity to spend at least one hour daily exercising in the open air. The Ombudsman concluded that the Friday regime in D Block was unreasonable as it did not allow prisoners a reasonable opportunity to have one hour exercise in the open air, in addition to cleaning their cells, having a shower and using a telephone — and a particular lock-up was not unreasonable but there was a need to return certain prisoners to normal hours of unlock after an enforced lockdown that required an assessment within a short period as to how this would be done and the resources to do so safely.
NZ Ombudsman, May 2016

Local Government decision making

Investigation into Casey City Council's Special Charge Scheme for Market Lane
"This investigation was triggered by a complaint about an interest charge levied by a local council. ... Thirty-seven ratepayers were levied with a special charge for the cost of sealing an unmade road adjacent to their properties. Each owner would be liable for between $15,000 and $20,000 plus interest if paid in instalments over 15 years. When the ratepayers were first consulted about the scheme, Council told them the interest rate would be approximately 4.25 per cent. The special charge scheme was declared in open council, but in a closed session at the same meeting, the interest rate was increased to 7.5 per cent, by which time the owners' right to object to the scheme had expired. This very important decision directly affecting ratepayers was made at a closed council meeting. [Ombudsman] officers started looking at how widespread this practice was and, as a result, launched a separate own motion investigation into transparency in local government decision making. This case illustrates some overarching themes of confused or arbitrary process and poor communication with ratepayers. These undermine public trust in the level of government closest to most: their local council."
Victorian Ombudsman, June 2016

Children and youth

Management of child safety reports: An investigation into the current child safety complaints management processes within the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services.
"The report focuses on the adequacy of collaboration and coordination between the department and the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) regarding the resolution of issues of concern identified by OPG Community Visitors during their visits to children placed in out-of-home care. A robust and effective complaints management system within the department is essential to ensuring an accountable and transparent child safety system, allowing individual concerns to be addressed and resolved. [A]n effective child safety complaints system should be easily accessible to the public, responsive to all concerns raised and demonstrate objectivity and fairness in how complaints are managed and accountability in the recording and reporting of complaint outcomes. Having regard to these objectives, this report presents a number of recommendations for both the department and the OPG to assist in strengthening their processes for managing child safety complaints."
Qld Ombudsman, July 2016

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