There was a slight increase in the number of people who approached the ACT Ombudsman’s office for assistance in 2011–12. We received 763 approaches and complaints—a three per cent increase on the previous year.
Approaches and complaints about the Community Services and Justice and Community Safety Directorates accounted for 46% of all the approaches and complaints we received—22% and 24% respectively.
The majority of approaches and complaints about Community Services are about Housing ACT. A frequent topic raised by people is delay in the delivery of housing maintenance and in 2012–13 our office will be working with Housing ACT to improve its complaint handling around this issue.
In May 2012 we published a report under s 18 of the Ombudsman Act (ACT) 1989 following our investigation of complaints about delays in finalising applications for financial assistance under the Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance) Act 1983. I was encouraged by the Attorney General’s positive response to this report and look forward to working with the Justice and Community Safety Directorate on the implementation of our recommendations.
A highlight for the office this year was the passage of the Crimes (Child Sex Offenders) Amendment Bill 2012. This Bill will commence in November 2012 and addresses many of the concerns we have previously raised about the effectiveness of the Crimes (Child Sex Offenders) Act 2005. The reforms are an excellent example of how this office can work effectively with government agencies to improve public administration.
In August 2011, ACT Policing commenced a roll-out of tasers to substantive sergeants. Our office maintains an interest in all use of force options used by Australian Federal Police members and requested copies of all use of force reports involving taser use. We compiled this information into a report which will be issued in early 2012–13.
In 2012–13, the ACT Ombudsman’s office will be working closely with the Chief Minister and Cabinet Directorate to improve complaint handling and public administration across ACT Government.
We are keenly awaiting the arrival of the new ACT Ombudsman, Mr Colin Neave AM on 17 September 2012. Mr Neave will bring a wealth of experience, both as a senior leader of both commonwealth and state public service agencies, and as the Chief Ombudsman of the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Australian Banking Industry Ombudsman, to the Office of the ACT Ombudsman.