If you are interested in obtaining information from the Ombudsman’s office, it is a good idea to telephone first to find out the most efficient way to do so. Sometimes a formal Freedom of Information request may be needed, but this is not always the case. Senior officers of the Ombudsman’s office have been authorised to disclose the following information to a person who has made a complaint to the office, or to a person known to be acting on their behalf:
- Correspondence to the office received from them
- Correspondence to them from the Ombudsman’s office
- Records of telephone and personal discussion involving them, unless those records contain information which the officer making the disclosure considers sensitive, in which case non-sensitive portions may be disclosed
- Other documents where the officer making the disclosure is satisfied that the person would have already seen them (for example, copies of correspondence between themselves and the agency, which is the subject of their complaint).
The Ombudsman holds information in the following broad categories:
Investigations, including complaints
This could include:
- Correspondence and records of consultations with people making complaints, agencies and other information sources
- Background material
- Records of conversations
This would include information relating to the Ombudsman’s role as the chief executive of a government agency with a particular set of responsibilities, in terms of the development or implementation of administrative process, policy or legislation.
Management of the Ombudsman’s office
This category includes information relating to the management of the office, including staffing, contracting and financial records, and information about asset management.
The information the Ombudsman holds may be disclosed in the following circumstances:
For example in relation to information sought by a person about the investigation of his or her own complaint, where:
- The documents are routine
- An ongoing investigation will not be prejudiced
- There is no other interest likely to be adversely affected by disclosure.
As required under the Freedom of Information Act 1989
The FOI Act creates a general right of access to documents held by government agencies, subject to exemptions, which recognise the need to protect sensitive personal and commercial information and some government records.
For example the annual report and other published reports, including reports of investigations.
As required by law
From time to time the Ombudsman’s office is required to provide information in relation for example to legal proceedings or during the course of auditing. The legislation provides substantial protection for investigation information.