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Annual Report 2004-2005 Ombudsman 27th Report



Annual Report 2004-2005 Ombudsman 27th Report

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Tabled paper 283


Tabled papers for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Tabled papers; ParliamentNT




Tabled By Claire Martin


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_________________________________________________________ Ombudsmans Annual Report 2004/05 4 1. INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW OMBUDSMANS FOREWORD This is the twenty seventh Annual Report of the Ombudsman for the Northern Territory. The previous Ombudsman, Mr Peter Boyce, ended his two terms and ten years of service in March 2005. Mr Vic Feldman then acted in his place. During the reporting period they guided the team at the Ombudsmans Office in achieving the outcomes described in this Annual Report. It is significant to note that during this financial year there has been 39% more approaches to the Office than in the previous year. The number of approaches to the Office has doubled since 2001/2002 (1638 3275) without any increase in staff numbers. In the period 2004/2005 there has been a 28% increase in the number of matters finalised. This all adds up to a major increase in productivity that indicates substantial improvements in processes, dedication and professionalism of all staff within the Office. I took up the position of Ombudsman on 29 August 2005, four weeks before I am finalising this report. My observations on the Office and the statistics provided in this report are that: the workload of those managing inquiries has reached saturation point. Any further increase in approaches is likely to stretch resources available for this purpose and impact on the ability to resolve complaints in a timely manner; I am concerned at the backlog of long standing complaints against police. The timeframe in which they are being finalised is unacceptable. Only 54% of police complaints were finalised within the benchmark time of 180 days. Many are taking over a year to complete. This is not a reasonable timeframe and is a cause of criticism of this Office. The delays are occurring mainly in the Office of the Ombudsman after receiving all necessary information from the Professional Responsibility Command of NT Police. Redressing this backlog will be a top priority. I am not yet in a position to determine whether the reason for the backlog is the accumulation of a long time inadequate personnel establishment or an aberration in what is the normal workload. Whatever the reason the result is unacceptable. One of the major objectives of the Office is to work with agencies, local government councils and police to improve the quality of services provided to the public. To achieve this, the Ombudsman makes recommendations and suggestions for improvement as a result of undertaking inquiries and investigations. It is pleasing to note how effective the Office has been in this regard. Of the 108 recommendations made throughout the year, 102 were adopted and implemented in some form. The Office has continued to operate within budget but only at the expense of reducing funding available for discretionary activities such as access and awareness, staff development and training. This approach puts the interests of the persons approaching the Office above the welfare of the staff and, in the short term, at times of overload, is the