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The Office of the Ombudsman (in Māori: Tari o te Kaitiaki Mana Tangata) was established in 1962 under the Parliamentary Commissioner (Ombudsman) Act 1962. The term "Ombudsman" is Swedish and basically means "grievance person".The primary role of the Ombudsman in New Zealand is to investigate complaints against government agencies. In 1983 the responsibilities were extended to include investigation of agencies that fail to provide information requested in accordance with the Official Information Act. The Ombudsman also has responsibility to protect whistleblowers and investigate the administration of prisons and other places of detention.
An ombudsman, ombudsperson, ombud, or public advocate is an official who is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or a violation of rights. The ombudsman is usually appointed by the government or by parliament, but with a significant degree of independence. In some countries an inspector general, citizen advocate or other official may have duties similar to those of a national ombudsman, and may also be appointed by a legislature. Below the national level an ombudsman may be appointed by a state, local or municipal government. Unofficial ombudsmen may be appointed by, or even work for, a corporation such as a utility supplier, newspaper, NGO, or professional regulatory body.
New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.
The Official Information Act 1982 is a statute of the New Zealand Parliament which creates a public right of access to information held by government bodies. It is New Zealand's primary freedom of information law and part of New Zealand's uncodified constitution.
The first Ombudsman in New Zealand was Guy Powles who had a previous background as a lawyer, soldier, administrator and diplomat. He held the position of Ombudsman from 1962 until his retirement in 1977.At the time of his appointment, only three other countries had an Ombudsman - Sweden, Finland and Denmark.
Sir Guy Richardson Powles was a New Zealand diplomat, the last Governor of Western Samoa and architect of Samoan independence, and New Zealand's first Ombudsman.
The Ombudsmen Act came into force in 1975. This allowed for the appointment of additional Ombudsmen in addition to the chief Ombudsman and extended the role to include local government agencies.
In 1983, the Official Information Act required government agencies to respond to requests for information (known as OIA requests) and the Ombudsman was given the task of investigating complaints against Ministers of the Crown and central government agencies when requested information was not supplied in a timely manner. In 1988 the Ombudsman's powers were extended to decisions made by local government agencies as well.
In 2001, the Protected Disclosures Act (commonly known as the “whistle-blower” legislation) was passed. This makes the Ombudsman responsible for "providing advice and guidance to any employee who has made, or is considering making, a disclosure about serious wrongdoing in their workplace (either public or private sector)".In 2005 all crown entities were brought within the Ombudsman's jurisdiction under the Ombudsmen Act and Official Information Act.
In 2007, the Office of the Ombudsman was designated as a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) under the Crimes of Torture Act 1989 (COTA). This legislation establishes New Zealand’s human rights obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (“OPCAT”) to "prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" by establishing a system of regular and independent visits to prisons and other places of detention.
New Zealand's Chief Ombudsman (Nga Kaitiaki Mana Tangata in Māori) is appointed by the Governor-General of New Zealand on recommendation of the House of Representatives. The Chief Ombudsman is assisted by others who have the title of Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman's role is described in its Annual Report for 2012 as follows: "We investigate, review and inspect the administrative conduct of state sector agencies, and provide advice and guidance, in order to ensure people are treated fairly in New Zealand” and that “a high level of public trust in government is maintained”.
The guiding principle of the Official Information Act is that "information must be made available unless a good reason exists under the Acts for withholding it." The underlying purpose is "to increase the availability of official information to promote more effective public participation in the making and administration of laws and policies; to promote the accountability of Ministers of the Crown and government officials; and to protect sensitive information where necessary in the public interest or to preserve personal privacy." Requests for information must be answered within 20 working days although the time limit can be extended. If a Government agency requires more time to answer a particular request, they have to provide the reason for any such extension.
The Act allows Government agencies to deny requests for information under certain circumstances. These include: the national security or defence of New Zealand; the maintenance of law and order; trade secrets and commercial confidentiality; personal privacy; and legal professional privilege.The Ombudsman's role is to ensure that government agencies provide information that is requested in accordance with the Act.
The agencies generating the most complaints tend to be ones that interact with and impact upon large numbers of New Zealanders. In 2011/12, these agencies were the Department of Corrections, the Earthquake Commission, the Ministry of Social Development, the Department of Labour (Immigration New Zealand), the Accident Compensation Corporation, and Inland Revenue Department. In that year, 97% of complaints came from individual members of the public. 34% were from prisoners or prisoner advocates (not all against the Department of Corrections), and 63% were from other members of the public. Only 3% of complaints were made by corporate entities and special interest groups.
The number of OIA complaints has been steadily increasing ever since the Act was passed. In 2012, the Ombudsman received 1,236 OIA complaints, an increase of 25 percent on 2010/11 numbers, and the highest number since the 2000 to 2001 period.Private individuals made approximately three-quarters of all OIA complaints; the media made about 12% while Members of Parliament and political party research units accounted for 4%. 41% of OIA complaints were due to a partial or complete refusal to provide information.
In 2011/12 the Ombudsman received 10,636 complaints, an increase of 22% on the previous year's numbers. Dame Beverley told Parliament the Office of the Ombudsman was "in crisis, with a bulging backlog of cases due to lack of investigators". Part of this was due to an increase in complaints about the Earthquake Commission and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority and by 2011, the total number of complaints being received was double that provided for by the baseline funding.Dame Margaret said her staff were underpaid, overworked and were leaving - and "in some cases were literally being worked to death". She said her office was "sinking under the weight of the complaint burden" which was slowing down the resolution of complaints.
In 2013, the Ombudsman received 13,684 complaints, an increase of 29% on the previous year. The Ombudsman described this as "an unprecedented increase in demand for its services...for the second year in a row.In response the Government provided extra funding in the budget in both 2013 and 2014. The increases enabled Dame Beverley to hire more investigators and she said her office should catch up on its backlog of complaints by 2015.
In 2012 Dame Beverley expressed concern at attempts by Government agencies to keep information secret by drafting laws to avoid the Official Information Act, referring in particular to new legislation on partial state asset sales, charter schools and changes to mining permits. The Ombudsman's Office argued at a select committee hearing that state assets associated with the Mixed Ownership Model Act would still be 51 per cent owned by the public and should remain subject to the Official Information Act (OIA). Dame Beverley said there was an increasing number of officials in government who fail to understand the constitutional importance of the legislation and that this trend was 'reprehensible' and 'extremely dangerous'.
In December 2012, the Ombudsman criticised the Ministry of Education over its response to requests for information about school closures in Christchurch. David McGee found the Ministry misled the Christchurch City Council by advising two school principals to withdraw their official requests "in order to receive a better response." McGee said: "Schools and parents should not have to ferret out information by making official information requests." The Ombudsman also expressed concerns that there may be a perception within the public sector that "some requests for information can only be processed efficiently by somehow removing them from the OIA context".
In March 2013 the Office of the Ombudsman announced it would conduct an own-motion investigation into the way the public service responds to requests made under the Official Information Act. It said it was receiving an increasing number of complaints by members of the public who felt "shut out". Constitutional lawyer Mai Chen said reluctance by Government departments to answer OIA requests raised concerns "about how well public servants understood a law intended to give balance to the 'David and Goliath' inequality between citizen and government".Labour's Claire Curren agreed on the need for an investigation saying: "There is an emerging crisis with our watchdog agencies", and this is contributing to a "paralysis of democracy".
The investigation began in December 2014 with over 63 state agencies required to participate.
The Ombudsman is one of a number of agencies responsible for protecting 'whistleblowers' – employees who report serious wrongdoing in their workplace under the Protected Disclosures Act, which came into force in 2001. The Act applies to both public and private sector workplaces. "Serious wrongdoing" includes unlawful, corrupt or irregular use of public money or resources; conduct that poses a serious risk to public health, safety, the environment or the maintenance of the law; any criminal offence; and gross negligence or mismanagement by public officials.
The Act states that employers cannot take legal or disciplinary proceedings against an employee who makes a 'protected disclosure', or brings their concerns to an 'appropriate authority'. The Act also states that if an employer takes retaliatory action, the employee can initiate a personal grievance case under the Employment Relations Act. The Human Rights Act may also be available to anyone who is victimised as a result of protected disclosures.
Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem says only 10 to 12 people a year ring her office about the Act and even fewer have used it to reveal information. She says the law could have been used to prevent the collapse of so many finance companies – which covers employees in such companies. She also can't understand why nobody used the legislation to raise concerns about safety practices at the Pike River mine. Dame Beverley says she wants to find out how the Protected Disclosures Act could be used more effectively in such cases.
The Ombudsman is also part of "National Preventive Mechanisms" which administer The Crimes of Torture Act which establishes New Zealand’s international obligations under the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). OPCAT was established to ensure a system of regular visits by independent international and national bodies to prisons, police cells and mental health hospitals in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Countries that have signed up to OPCAT allow their performance to be monitored by the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The Ombudsman appoints Prison Investigators to visit prisons and other places of detention in New Zealand and to conduct investigations after complaints. The inspectors are entitled to interview anyone they choose, including prisoners and staff, who may be in a position to provide relevant information about the treatment of detainees, their access to health care and other conditions of detention. In 2012, the inspectors visited 70 places of detention, and made 24 formal inspections.
From time to time, the Ombudsman also looks at systemic issues through “own motion” investigations. In 2011/12 the Ombudsmen completed a major investigation into the Provision, Access and Availability of Prisoner Health Services. The main issues identified in this report were deficiencies in the management of mentally unwell prisoners; concerns with the management of at risk (potentially suicidal) prisoners; inadequate resourcing of dental services; inadequate recording of requests to access health services, waiting times and health related complaints; and no process in place for external accreditation of any of the prison health services. Following the investigation, the Ombudsmen made 21 suggestions for Corrections to consider, and 31 specific recommendations for improvement.
From time to time the Ombudsman makes submissions to Parliament on proposed pieces of legislation. In 2010 a submission was made on the Law Commission's Issues Paper 18 "The Public’s Right to Know" in which the Ombudsman supported the Law Commission’s view that it would not be desirable to exclude certain classes or categories of information from the Ombudsman's jurisdiction. In 2012 the Ombudsman made submissions on the Mixed Ownership Model Bill. Clauses 6 and 7 of the Bill would remove Mixed Ownership companies from being subject to the Ombudsman Act (OA) and Official Information Act (OIA). The Ombudsman's submission said Mixed Ownership companies will still perform the same functions they currently perform, and the Crown as majority shareholder, would continue to have the determinative voice on all decisions - so it was 'highly desirable' that the OA and OIA should continue to apply to them.
The Ombudsman also made a submission on the Corrections Amendment Bill. Dame Beverley opposed sections of the Bill which would remove responsibility for the health care of prisoners from prison doctors. She opposed sections which would allow Corrections to use mechanical restraints on prisoners for more than 24 hours and sections which would allow prison officers to conduct strip searches without authorisation from the prison manager. She also opposed sections which would make it an offence to drink water before a random drug test with the intention of diluting the resulting urine sample (known as waterloading). The Ombudsman said this section was potentially a breach of a prisoner’s right to access drinking water.
Parliamentary Ombudsman is the name of the principal ombudsman institutions in Finland, in Iceland, in Denmark, in Sweden and in Norway. In each case, the terms refer both to the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman and to an individual Ombudsman.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, formerly the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) is a service that investigates complaints from the public about councils and some other bodies providing public services in England. It also investigates complaints about registered adult social care providers. It is the last stage of the complaints process, for people who have given the council or provider opportunity to resolve the issue first. It is a free service. Similar duties are carried out by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman and the Northern Ireland Ombudsman.
The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) is a public body, in England and Wales, appointed by the Secretary of State for Justice to investigate complaints from prisoners and those subject to probation supervision, or those upon whom reports have been written. The organisation is also responsible for investigating all deaths of prisoners and residents of probation hostels and immigration detention accommodation. Originally the PPO had no jurisdiction over the investigation of deaths in prisons or probation hostels.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) is an independent civilian oversight body that considers complaints against the New Zealand Police and oversees their conduct. It derives its responsibilities and powers from the Independent Police Conduct Authority Act. Under section 12.1 of the Act, the Authority's functions are to receive complaints alleging misconduct or neglect of duty by police employees; or concerning any practice, policy, or procedure of New Zealand Police and to take action as contemplated by the Act. It may also investigate any Police incident involving death or serious bodily harm and make recommendations to the Commissioner of Police based on those investigations.
Stephen Shaw, CBE is former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales. He was first appointed Prisons Ombudsman in October 1999; from 1 September 2001 his remit was extended to take in complaints against the National Probation Service (NPS) from those under supervision in the community. His remit was further extended to take in complaints from those in immigration detention in October 2006. He departed in April 2010. Shaw’s time in office as ombudsman covered a period in which the role’s responsibilities and independence increased. In 2003, Alan Travis noted in UK newspaper The Guardian, "His predecessor, Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Woodhead, had his powers so clipped by the former Conservative home secretary, Michael Howard, that the small and little-known club that is the British and Irish Ombudsmen Association refused him membership on the grounds that he was not independent enough".
Problems related to human rights in Chile include discrimination against indigenous populations; societal violence and discrimination against women, children, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people; child labor; and harsh prison conditions and treatment. Additional human rights concerns in the country include use of excessive force and abuse by security forces, isolated reports of government corruption, and anti-Semitism. Authorities generally maintain effective control over the security forces. However, security forces occasionally commit human rights abuses. The government generally takes steps to prosecute officials who commit abuses. Nevertheless, many human rights organizations contend that security officials accused of committing abuses have impunity.
Ombudsmen in Australia are independent agencies which assist when a dispute arises between individuals and industry bodies or government agencies. Government ombudsman services are free to the public, like many other ombudsman and dispute resolution services, and are a means of resolving disputes outside of the court systems. Australia has an ombudsman assigned for each state; as well as an ombudsman for the Commonwealth of Australia. As laws differ between states just one process, or policy, cannot be used across the Commonwealth. All government bodies are within the jurisdiction of the ombudsman.
In the United States, there is no unified federal ombudsman service. The role of handling complaints against federal authorities has to some extent been unofficially incorporated into the role of the US Member of Congress. This informal job has become increasingly time consuming. It is subject to criticism on the grounds that it interferes with a legislator's primary duty, namely to read and be knowledgeable about a bill before casting his or her vote.
Corruption in New Zealand is examined on this page. New Zealand has ratified several important international anti-corruption conventions such as the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions and the United Nations Convention against Corruption. It is regarded as having one of the lowest levels of perceived corruption in the world. Transparency International's 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index ranks the country first place out of 176 countries. New Zealand had previously topped the index for seven consecutive years until 2013; it dropped to second place in 2014 and fourth in 2015.
The Republic of Vanuatu is a parliamentary democracy with a population of approximately 260 000. The Constitution of Vanuatu is supreme law and sets out the legal framework which deals with the respect of human rights.
A children's ombudsman, children's commissioner, youth commissioner, child advocate, children's commission, youth ombudsman or equivalent body is a public authority in various countries charged with the protection and promotion of the rights of children and young people, either in society at large, or in specific categories such as children in contact with the care system. The agencies usually have a substantial degree of independence from the executive, and generally operate as specialised ombudsman offices or national human rights institutions, dealing with individual complaints, intervening with other public authorities, conducting research, and – where their mandate permits them to engage in advocacy – generally promoting children's rights in public policy, law and practice. The first children's commissioner was established in Norway in 1981. The creation of such institutions has been promoted by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, and, from 1990 onwards, by the Council of Europe.
Ombudsmen in Pakistan is an Ombudsman in Pakistan
The Republic of Uruguay is located in South America, between Argentina, Brazil and the South Atlantic Ocean, with a population of 3,332,972. Uruguay gained independence and sovereignty from Spain in 1828 and has full control over its internal and external affairs. From 1973-85 Uruguay was governed by a civil-military dictatorship which committed numerous human rights abuses.
Deborah Glass, is the current Victorian Ombudsman. A lawyer by profession, she spent her formative years in Melbourne, Australia, before taking her career overseas to Switzerland, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom.
The Office of the New Zealand Privacy Commissioner was established to administer the Privacy Act 1993. The Privacy Commissioner is entrusted to protect personal information of New Zealanders in accordance with the Privacy Act.
The Office of the Ombudsman in Ireland was set up under the terms of the Ombudsman Act 1980, as amended by the Ombudsman (Amendment) Act 2012. The current Ombudsman is Peter Tyndall.
Prisoners in New Zealand are afforded a number of human rights, but not all rights. Criticisms by a United Nations report in 2014 highlight a number of issues that constitute ill-treatment of prisoners, such as remand prisoners being routinely held on lock-down for 19 hours per day, an increasingly strict prison regime, and the mixing of adult and youth prisoners.
The Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 is a statute of the New Zealand Parliament which creates a public right of access to information held by local authorities and council-controlled organisations and sets standards of openness for local authority meetings. It is one of New Zealand's freedom of information laws.