Ombudsman's Quarterly Update | December 2021

Date posted:

With the end of the year just around the corner, the Ombudsman’s Office is not yet slowing down. We have been busier than ever, and despite most staff continuing to work remotely I am proud of the service we’ve been able to provide through lockdowns and all the other challenges 2021 has sent our way.

We began our extended hours pilot three weeks ago, with another week to go – so our phone lines are open from 7 am to 6.30 pm until 22 December.

A common theme in many complaints is how public officials exercise discretion when they make decisions - and my latest report on the border permit system is the most recent illustration of the impact on people’s lives when discretion is exercised poorly, or not at all. We know hardworking public health officials have a tough job, especially in a pandemic. But some of the outcomes we saw, for people unable to get exemptions to go home, were downright unjust.

At its core, the investigation was about the importance of good decision-making, and some basic lessons can be taken from it. Failing to exercise discretion fairly, not giving reasons, not offering a right of review – these can all damage public trust in those who make decisions, and ultimately, in government.

Other investigations continue, and will be the subjects of reports in 2022, including into the Environment Protection Authority’s approval of spoil location sites for the West Gate Tunnel project , and the joint investigation with IBAC into branch-stacking and alleged misuse of public resources.

Our public reports are only the tip of the iceberg of the work of the office. Our dedicated staff deal with complaints on the phone, online and email, on a multitude of themes, from prisons to parks, roads, rates and rubbish. Our annual report showed the 12% increase of complaints in our jurisdiction, to over 18,000, and illustrated the outcomes we are able to achieve, including fines and fees waived, decisions reviewed, or other form of action taken by an agency to resolve a complaint.

We will be closing the office between Christmas and New Year, to ensure all our hardworking staff take a break, but expect to be back refreshed and ready for another busy year in 2022, working towards improved public administration in a fairer Victoria. And may we all have a happy, healthy and safe festive season.

  • System failures
  • Service delays
  • Complaint handling
  • Human Rights