Wider administrative improvement investigations
This page contains information about Ombudsman investigations aimed at achieving wider administrative improvements.
Much of our work involves dealing with complaints from individuals about how a particular act or decision has affected them. The outcome of the Ombudsman’s intervention might be a remedy for the personally affected individual.
However, sometimes the acts and decisions of state sector agencies have more serious implications, and/or the potential to affect a larger group of people. The Ombudsman wants to make the most of their intervention in these situations to bring about what we call ‘wider administrative improvement’.
- What does 'wider administrative improvement' mean?
- What prompts a 'wider administrative improvement' investigation?
- The investigation process
- Previous 'wider administrative improvement' investigations
Wider administrative improvement means focusing on significant and systemic issues in order to try and bring about an overall improvement in standards of administrative conduct. The Ombudsman has made a particular commitment to focus on wider administrative improvement in the prisons and disabilities areas.
A significant or systemic issue may come to our attention because we've received one or more complaints from the public. However, we also hear about significant and systemic issues in other ways, for instance, by referral from staff within an agency, or through media reporting.
A wider administrative improvement investigation might be suitable where:
- a pattern of similar complaints has been received
- a large number of people are directly affected by the issue raised
- there’s significant public interest in the issue raised
- there’s potential for the Ombudsman’s investigation to improve good administration across the public sector or on a broad basis in a particular agency
- a practical and enduring outcome may be achievable for agencies and the public
- an investigation is the best and most efficient use of resources.
Depending on the circumstances, a wider administrative improvement investigation may be short and focused, or it may cover wide-ranging issues and take a number of months to complete. The Ombudsman will usually be assisted by a small team of investigators.
The investigation process is governed by the Ombudsmen Act, and will have the same features and milestones as any other Ombudsman investigation.
After scoping the issue and deciding that a wider administrative improvement investigation is warranted, the Ombudsman will write to the agency concerned to let them know of the proposed investigation and to seek relevant information. The Ombudsman may also decide to consult or seek information from third parties.
After investigating, the Ombudsman will form a ‘provisional’ opinion on the fairness and reasonableness of the agency’s administrative conduct. Anyone adversely affected by that opinion will have an opportunity to comment before a final decision is made.
The Ombudsman may make recommendations for improvement to the agency. Although the Ombudsman has no power to compel an agency to accept a recommendation, most recommendations are accepted. The final investigation report will be published.
Recent examples of wider administrative improvement investigations include:
- an investigation into Prisoner Health Services
- an investigation into bullying at Hutt Valley High School
- an investigation into the complaint procedures of Corrections Inmate Employment
- an investigation into the Department of Corrections’ disposable safety razor policy
- an investigation into the Department of Corrections’ use of strip gowns
- an investigation into prisoner transport (prompted by the death of prisoner Liam Ashley).
Reports on these and other investigations can be found here.