Demand for the Chief Ombudsman to provide a ‘trusted check’ on the actions and decisions of the Government is higher than ever, Peter Boshier, said today.
Chief Ombudsman Boshier has today published his 2022/2023 Annual Report, which he says reflects the fact that more and more people are coming to him when they are concerned about how decisions of the Government and public sector agencies are affecting their lives.
“The economic and social challenges being experienced by many New Zealanders have had a significant effect on the work of my office over the past 12 months,” Mr Boshier said in a statement.
“There has been a greater emphasis on the need for transparency and accountability across the public sector including agencies involved in decision-making around issues like response, recovery and rebuild so the rights of people during challenging times are protected.
“This has resulted in an increased demand for public engagements from my office as well as a greater demand for advice from agencies who are at the forefront of this work.
“The challenges people are facing are reflected in the ongoing high number of complaints I am receiving. Over the past year, I received the second highest number of complaints ever, exceeding the number received in the years following the Canterbury earthquakes and the early pandemic period.”
Overall, the number of complaints received by the Chief Ombudsman in 2022/23 were 46% higher than the average number received in the four years prior to the pandemic.
“I received 2,059 official information complaints and 4,028 Ombudsman Act complaints as well as more than 5,000 enquiries,” said Mr Boshier.
He also published two self-initiated investigation reports, Ready or not? – an investigation into 12 government agencies’ official information practices – and Kia Whaitake: Making a Difference, a report on his systemic investigation into Ara Poutama Aotearoa | Department of Corrections.
“I also completed 101 visits and inspections to various places of detention where I identified a range of issues including poor living conditions, over-occupancy and workforce issues. I made 67 recommendations for improvements to conditions and treatment of detainees.”
The Chief Ombudsman said demand from whistle-blowers raising concerns about serious wrongdoing in their workplace is also on the rise.
“In 2022/23, I received 128 protected disclosures and related enquiries which is an 80% increase on the previous year.”
“This year marks 60 years since the role of Ombudsman was first established in New Zealand. In October 1962 our first Ombudsman, Sir Guy Powles, promised to look for ‘ reason, justice, sympathy and honour’ when examining and reporting on the actions and decisions of Government. More than half a century later, and in very different times, my focus remains the same,” he said.
As well as the Annual Report, the Chief Ombudsman has also published his Strategic Intentions for the period 1 July 2023 to 30 June 2028.