Who can the Ombudsman investigate?
The Ombudsman has authority to investigate approximately 4,000 public sector agencies in New Zealand.
New Zealand's public sector
The public sector includes:
- government departments and ministries
- ministers and the Police (in relation to decisions on requests for official information)
- local authorities
- crown entities
- state-owned enterprises
- district health boards
- tertiary education institutions
- school boards of trustees.
The Public Service Commission has a map of all public sector agencies, showing how they fit together.
The Ombudsman's powers
The Ombudsman process is essentially about understanding and enquiring about what happened, why a decision was made, or what information an agency holds.
Complaints are normally handled by telephone and in writing. Sometimes there may be face to face contact.
Although the vast majority of complaints are resolved quickly and informally, the Ombudsman has the power to investigate and even to enter government premises, require information and documents to be produced on demand, summon witnesses and examine them on oath.
All government agencies must cooperate with the Ombudsman’s investigations.
What happens in an investigation
After the complaint is assessed and if the decision is made to investigate, the Ombudsman then notifies the relevant government agency of the investigation. This is usually by way of a letter to the Chief Executive to explain what the agency needs to know about the complaint, why the complainant is not happy, and why the Ombudsman has decided an investigation is needed. The agency is asked to give the Ombudsman any additional information that might be relevant.
Investigators may then help the Ombudsman by gathering the evidence upon which the Ombudsman bases their opinion and recommendations.
The adversely affected party will be given the opportunity to respond or provide further comment before the Ombudsman’s opinion (and any recommendations) becomes final.