The role of the ACT Ombudsman is performed under the Ombudsman Act 1989. The Ombudsman also has specific responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act 2016 and the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 (Cth) and is authorised to deal with whistleblower complaints under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2012.
Under the Ombudsman Act 1989, the Ombudsman:
- has the power to investigate the administrative actions of ACT Government Directorates or agencies.
- can decide whether or not to investigate complaints from individuals, groups or organisations.
- can conduct investigations on an own motion basis.
- has the power to obtain information or documents, examine witnesses under oath or enter a premises for the purposes of an investigation.
- does not have the power to investigate matters regarding employment, disability services, health services, services for children and young people or services for older people.
- does not have the power to investigate actions taken by ministers, judges, magistrates or tribunals.
- can make recommendations for remedial action, either specifically in an individual case, or generally by a change to legislation or administrative policies or procedures.
- cannot compel agencies to follow any recommendations made, however, if agencies do not act on recommendations, the Ombudsman can report to relevant ministers or make a public report on the matter.
- can report in a number of ways following an investigation, although investigations must be conducted in private and any parties criticised by a subsequent report must be given a chance to comment.
ACT Policing services are provided by members of the Australian Federal Police (AFP). Complaints about the AFP are within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Ombudsman who is also the Law Enforcement Ombudsman.
Under the Australian Federal Police Act 1979, the Commonwealth Ombudsman:
- can investigate complaints about AFP members, including ACT Police, and about the policies, practices and procedures of the AFP as an agency.
- reports to the Parliament, at least annually, on the comprehensiveness and adequacy of the AFP's complaint handling.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman also conducts AFP inspections under the following legislation:
- Crimes (Child Sex Offenders) Act 2005 (ACT)
- Crimes (Controlled Operations) Act 2008 (ACT)
- Crimes (Assumed Identities) Act 2009 (ACT)
- Crimes (Surveillance Devices) Act 2010 (ACT)
For more information, please visit the Law Enforcement Ombudsman page on the Commonwealth Ombudsman website.
The objects of the Freedom of Information Act 2016 are to:
- provide a right of access to government information unless access to the information would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest
- recognise the importance of public access to government information for the proper working of representative democracy
- enable the public to participate more effectively in government processes and to promote improved decision-making within government
- make the people and bodies that are responsible for governing the ACT more accountable to the public
- ensure that, to the fullest extent possible, government information is freely and publicly available to everyone
- facilitate and promote, promptly and at the lowest reasonable cost, the disclosure of the maximum amount of government information, and
- ensure that personal information held by the ACT is accurate, complete, up-to-date and not misleading.
Refer to our Freedom of Information page for more details.
Under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2012 the Ombudsman:
- can receive Public Interest Disclosures (PIDs).
- may investigate complaints about 'disclosable conduct' of the Head of Service of the ACT Public Service.
- may investigate complaints about the administrative arrangements in place within a Directorate for managing PIDs, and about how a PID has been investigated or handled by an agency.
Refer to our Public interest disclosure page for more information.