Annual Report 2017-2018 OmbudsmanNT
Tabled paper 934
Tabled Papers for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020; Tabled Papers; ParliamentNT
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22 A major investigation may or may not result in findings that require publication. It may find that unpublished damaging allegations are baseless. It may deal with highly sensitive personal matters. Or a narrowly confined issue may be best addressed by simply raising it with the relevant agency. The decision is ultimately for the Ombudsman as to whether the public interest is best served by creating a report for tabling. INDEPENDENCE Independence and impartiality are key drivers of the Office of the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman Act makes it clear that the Ombudsman is independent of government in relation to complaints and investigations: 12 Independence in relation to complaints and investigations (1) The Ombudsman is not subject to direction by any person about: (a) the way the Ombudsman exercises or performs the Ombudsman's powers or functions in relation to complaints and investigations; or (b) the priority given to investigations. (2) The Ombudsman must act independently, impartially and in the public interest in the exercise or performance of the Ombudsman's powers or functions in relation to complaints and investigations. That independence has been strongly maintained in the 40 years since the Office commenced. The Office is resourced through NT Government budgetary processes but that is also true of judges, the courts and other independent officers such as the Auditor-General. There are a range of special features that strengthen the independence of the Ombudsman, including: appointment as Ombudsman can only be made on recommendation from the Legislative Assembly; appointment is for a seven year term, which gives security of tenure; appointment is non-renewable, so there can be no speculation about favouring government interests in order to gain re-appointment; a broad power to report to the Legislative Assembly (through the Chief Minister) on the performance of the Ombudsmans functions or on a particular case; conditions of appointment that cannot be altered to the detriment of the Ombudsman during his or her term; termination for misconduct or incapacity can only be affected through a 2/3 vote of the Legislative Assembly; the Ombudsman appears each year before the Budget Estimates Committee of the Legislative Assembly to report directly on appropriations matters. IMPARTIALITY It is important to stress that independence from government does not mean that the Ombudsman represents or takes the side of complainants and enquirers. Nor does it mean that the Ombudsman must be immediately critical of all or any particular position taken by the NT Government of the day.
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