Freedom of Information (FOI) - Statement under sections 7 and 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 1989

Freedom of Information (FOI) - Statement under sections 7 and 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 1989

Freedom of Information (FOI) - Section 7 Statement

Information concerning functions and documents of the ACT Ombudsman (Freedom of Information 1989, section 7)

Establishment

The ACT Ombudsman was established by the Ombudsman Act 1989. The Act is administered by the Minister for Justice and Community Safety.

The office of ACT Ombudsman is held by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

Organisation

The Ombudsman's office is located at Level 5, Childers Square, 14 Childers Street, Canberra City ACT 2601.

The Ombudsman and the Deputy Commonwealth Ombudsman are statutory officers appointed under the Ombudsman Act 1976. Staff are appointed or employed under the Public Service Act 1999 (Cth).

People can contact the Ombudsman’s office in person, by telephone, or in writing by post, facsimile or email.

Functions

Complaints about government departments

Following a complaint from a member of the public, or using his ‘own motion’ powers under the Ombudsman Act 1989, the Ombudsman may investigate the administrative actions of most ACT Government departments and agencies and some private contractors delivering government services.

The Ombudsman cannot investigate:

  • the actions of Government Ministers or judges
  • employment-related matters
  • the actions of some government business enterprises.

The Ombudsman has a discretion not to investigate complaints which are ‘stale’, or frivolous, or where the complainant has not first sought redress from the agency, or where some other form of review or appeal is more appropriate in all the circumstances.

The Ombudsman may conduct a complaint investigation as he thinks fit. His powers are similar to those of a Royal Commission, and he can compel the production of documents and examine witnesses under oath.

Ombudsman investigations are private, and details are generally not revealed to people who are not legitimately concerned with the investigation. However, the Ombudsman’s Office is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1989.

Following an investigation, the Ombudsman is required to consider whether the actions of the department or authority were unreasonable, illegal, improperly discriminatory or otherwise wrong.

When the Ombudsman concludes an agency has erred, he may report his view to the agency and may recommend whatever remedial action he thinks is appropriate.

If the agency does not implement that action the Ombudsman can report such to the Chief Minister and the Legislative Assembly.

The Ombudsman must inform complainants of his actions in response to their complaint.

Complaints about Freedom of Information (FOI)

The Freedom of Information Act 1989 enables the Ombudsman to investigate complaints about actions and decisions by departments and agencies about requests for access to documents under FOI. Details of these complaints are included in the Ombudsman’s annual reports and in any additional reports he might make to the Legislative Assembly under the Ombudsman Act 1989. The reports may include observations about the operation of the Freedom of Information Act 1989 and recommendations on ways to improve public access to documents.

Complaints about the Australian Federal Police

Complaints made on or after 30 December 2006

The Ombudsman has specific functions in relation to complaints about the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in its ACT community policing role, under the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 and the Ombudsman Act 1976 (Cth).

Complaints about the AFP usually focus on its practices and procedures or the conduct of individual AFP appointees and are dealt with in a similar way to complaints made under the Ombudsman Act 1989.

Under the Australian Federal Police Act 1979, the Ombudsman reports to the Commonwealth Parliament, at least annually, about the comprehensiveness and the adequacy of the AFP’s complaint handling, including those about ACT policing.

Complaints made before 30 December 2006

The Commonwealth Ombudsman and the AFP’s Professional Standards team are jointly responsible for resolving complaints about the AFP under the repealed Complaints (Australian Federal Police) Act 1981.

Where the conduct of AFP appointees is in question, the initial investigation is normally undertaken by the AFP’s Professional Standards team, although there are occasions where it is not involved (for example, when the complaint is about actions of a member of the team).

The Ombudsman examines reports of all investigations, whether the originating complaint was made to the Ombudsman or to the AFP, and decides whether further action is necessary. If so, the case may be referred back to the AFP for further investigation.

Alternatively, the Ombudsman may decide to investigate the matter independently. Following an investigation by either the Ombudsman or the AFP the Ombudsman can recommend remedial action to the AFP Commissioner. Recommendations may include charging appointees with a criminal offence or a breach of discipline, or some other course of action. If the Commissioner disagrees with the Ombudsman’s recommendations, the matter is referred to the responsible Minister.

If the Commissioner does not take adequate action to implement the recommendation of the Minister, the Ombudsman can report to the Prime Minister and ultimately to the Parliament.

Categories of documents kept by the Ombudsman

Broadly speaking, the Ombudsman holds information in the following categories:

  1. information related to investigations, including complaints, correspondence and consultations with complainants, agencies and other information sources, background material, records of conversation, analysis and advice and reports;
  2. information related to the Ombudsman’s role as the chief executive of a Commonwealth agency with a particular set of responsibilities, in terms of the development or implementation of administrative process, policy or legislation; and
  3. information related to the Ombudsman’s management of his office, including personnel, contracting and financial records and information about asset management.

Freedom of Information (FOI) - Section 8 Statement

Documents available for inspection and purchase (Freedom of Information Act 1989, section 8)

This statement is published in accordance with section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 1989.

Access - FOI access and initial contact points

General inquiries and requests for access to documents or other matters relating to Freedom of Information may be made in person, by telephone or in writing at any Ombudsman office. Each office is open between 9 am and 5 pm Monday to Friday. Requests for access to documents must be made in writing.

Documents listed on this statement may be inspected at the Canberra Office, Level 5, Childers Square, 14 Childers Street, Canberra ACT 2601.

Note:

Particular documents may contain exempt material under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 1989 and therefore may only be available for inspection and/or purchase with deletions made to the exempt material; or alternatively where a document is considered to be an exempt document, access may be refused.

Manuals and guidelines

  • FOI Manual
    The Manual provides Ombudsman officers with guidance on dealing with FOI requests.
  • Work Practice Manual
    Some parts of the Ombudsman’s Work Practice Manual relate to making decisions and recommendations under the Ombudsman Act 1989)
  • Assessing approaches
  • Investigating
  • Concluding investigations
  • Further investigation and research
  • Systemic issues
  • Considering the agency’s response
  • Own motion investigating
  • Internal reviews
  • External reviews