Section B | Consultation and scrutiny reporting
The Ombudsman's office maintains contact with the community in a variety of formal and informal ways. This aspect of our work is important in raising public awareness of the right to complain to the Ombudsman and building confidence in the role of the office in managing and investigating complaints about ACT Government agencies and ACT Policing.
During 2010-2011 we:
- conducted outreach activities during Orientation Week at the University of Canberra and the Canberra Institute of Technology
- met with the trainee staff of ACT Corrective Services to explain our role
- hosted a half-day ACT Agency Contact Officers Forum to promote best practice in complaint handling
- liaised with the Burnett Institute and Mary Durkin the Health Services Commissioner to discuss health matters at the Alexander Maconochie Centre
- attending the Canberra Institute of Technology Students Association and Summernats' Fyshwick Nats 2010 car show
- a presentation to staff of the Bimberi Youth Detention Centre to remind them that children or their parents who have a complaint about the AFP or other ACT agencies can contact our office
- attending the Canberra Institute of Technology International Student Orientation Day, providing a presentation and answering questions at our stall
- visiting the ACT Disability, Aged and Carer Advocacy Service.
Legislative Assembly Committee inquiries and reports
The Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety considered the ACT Ombudsman's Annual Report 2009-2010 in its Report on Annual and Financial Reports 2019-2010, tabled in the Legislative Assembly on 30 June 2011. The Committee did request advice on whether the Ombudsman took account of risk assessments on registered offenders, with a response provided on 12 January 2011. The Committee inquiry has been concluded and the committee report released on 30 June 2011. The Committee made no recommendations in relation to the ACT Ombudsman.
The role of the ACT Ombudsman is performed under the Ombudsman Act 1989 (ACT). The Ombudsman also has specific responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act 1989 (ACT) and is authorised to deal with whistle-blower complaints under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1994 (ACT).
Members of the AFP provide policing services for the ACT under an agreement between the Commonwealth and ACT Governments. Members of the AFP assigned to the AFP's ACT region are engaged in community policing duties under the ACT Chief Police Officer, who is also an AFP Assistant Commissioner.
The AFP deals with complaints under Part V of the Australian Federal Police Act 1979. Complaints received by either the AFP or the Ombudsman prior to 30 December 2006 are dealt with under the provisions of the Complaints (Australian Federal Police) Act 1981 (Cth). The last complaints under this legislation were finalised in 2009-2010.
Responsibility for investigating complaints rests with the AFP. AFP line managers are required to deal with minor matters. More serious matters are notified to the Ombudsman's office. The categorisation of complaints into minor or serious matters was agreed on by the AFP Commissioner and the Ombudsman and set out in a legislative instrument. Primary responsibility for resolving more serious matters remains with the AFP. The Ombudsman may investigate complaints about the AFP under the Ombudsman Act 1976 (Cth). In general, complainants are expected to raise their complaints with the AFP in the first instance before the office will consider investigating them.
In addition, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, also designated as the Law Enforcement Ombudsman under the Ombudsman Act 1976 (Cth), is required to review the handling of complaints and conduct issues in the AFP at least annually and may investigate conduct issues on his own initiative. The AFP notifies us of serious complaints, which the AFP alerts the Ombudsman to matters that may warrant investigation.
The ACT Crimes (Controlled Operations) Act 2008 allows ACT Policing to conduct controlled (covert) operations in the ACT and gives oversight to the Ombudsman. A controlled operation is a covert operation carried out by law enforcement officers under the ACT Crimes (Controlled Operations) Act 2008 for the purpose of obtaining evidence that may lead to the prosecution of a person for a serious offence. The operation may result in law enforcement officers engaging in conduct that would constitute an offence unless authorised under this Act.
A Child Sex Offenders Register was established in the ACT as a requirement of the Crimes (Child Sex Offenders) Act 2005 (ACT) (the Act). One of the Ombudsman's functions under the ACT Ombudsman Act is to monitor compliance with Chapter 4 of the Act by the ACT Chief Police Officer and other people authorised by the Chief Police Officer to have access to the register.