Complaints about state sector agencies
This page provides information about the Ombudsman’s role in investigating complaints about state sector agencies.
- What can the Ombudsman do?
- What can’t the Ombudsman do?
- Can the Ombudsman refuse to investigate your complaint?
- Fact sheets on common agency complaints
Under the Ombudsmen Act the Ombudsman can investigate complaints about the administrative acts and decisions of central and local government agencies.
The agencies that fall within the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction are listed in schedule 1 of the Ombudsmen Act. They include:
- Government departments and ministries
- Crown entities
- District health boards
- State-owned enterprises
- Tertiary education institutions
- School boards of trustees
The Ombudsman can’t investigate complaints about:
- Private individuals, lawyers, MPs or privately-owned companies
- Decisions made by courts or tribunals
- Decisions made by the Parole Board
- Decisions made by a full Council (however, the Ombudsman can investigate complaints about the advice provided to a full Council by Council employees)
- Government Ministers (however, the Ombudsman can investigate complaints about advice provided to Ministers by government agencies, and decisions made by Ministers on requests for official information).
The Ombudsman also can’t investigate complaints about Police conduct (unless the complaint relates to a decision by the Police on a request for official information). Complaints about Police conduct are dealt with by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.
The Ombudsman can’t investigate your complaint if you have a right of appeal or review to a court or tribunal on the merits of your case, unless there are special circumstances that make it unreasonable for you to use those appeal rights.
If we can’t investigate your complaint, we’ll tell you why and may direct you to other complaint handling bodies that may be able to assist.
Before making a complaint to the Ombudsman, you should try to resolve it with the agency first. Many agencies have a complaints process. If this is not the case, you should write to the head or Chief Executive of the agency and make your complaint. The Ombudsman may decide not to investigate your complaint unless you have attempted to do this. You’ll find more information about making a complaint here.
Also, the Ombudsman may refuse to investigate your complaint if:
- there is an adequate alternative remedy reasonably available to you
- following preliminary enquiries, an investigation is considered unnecessary
- your complaint is more than 12 months old
- your complaint is trivial, vexatious or not made in good faith
- you do not have a sufficient personal interest in the complaint.
If the Ombudsman decides not to investigate your complaint you’ll receive an explanation for that decision.
If you're not sure whether the Ombudsman can investigate your complaint, call us on 0800 802 602.
We publish fact sheets about some of the common complaints we receive against agencies. They explain what we can and can’t look at, and the steps you need to take to try and resolve your complaint before coming to the Ombudsman. Click here to find fact sheets on complaints against:
- Accident Compensation Corporation
- Immigration New Zealand
- Work and Income New Zealand
- Inland Revenue Department
- Earthquake Commission
- Child Youth and Family
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