Complaint about the reimbursement of costs when attending the Chief Executive’s Advisory Panel
Complaint about Oranga Tamariki's (the Ministry) Chief Executive’s Advisory Panel’s process for reimbursement of costs - complainant was not informed of the process - Ombudsman suggested an update to the information sheet provided to attendees
The Chief Ombudsman received a complaint about the reimbursement of reasonable costs for a complainant attending the Ministry’s Chief Executive’s Advisory Panel (the Panel) in Wellington. The complainant had to travel to Wellington in order to attend the Panel hearing, and felt that the process for reimbursement of his costs had been unclear.
The Panel is an independent advisory committee that can review complaints that have not been resolved through the Ministry’s internal complaints process. Complainants are encouraged to attend Panel meetings, but it is not compulsory. The Panel’s Terms of Reference state that the ‘the Ministry will pay actual and reasonable costs for travel, accommodation, and meals to enable the complainant to attend a meeting’.
The complainant had offered his receipts to a Ministry staff member on the day that he met with the Panel. The staff member declined to take them, as this was not the correct process. The complainant raised with the Chief Ombudsman that the process for reimbursement was unclear, and caused him unnecessary anxiety on an already emotionally taxing day.
Inquiries were made of the Ministry, who explained that the process is for original receipts to be kept and submitted with a completed expense form. An information sheet is provided to complainants before their Panel meeting, and this outlines what is able to be reimbursed, such as reasonable travel, accommodation and meal costs.
After inquiries were made with the Ministry, the Chief Ombudsman saw that the information sheet given to attendees explained what could be reimbursed, but not how to claim a reimbursement. He asked that the information sheet be amended to include this information, as it had appeared to cause undue stress in this case, and was important information for people attending the Panel.
The Ministry agreed to do this, and no further action by the Chief Ombudsman was required.
This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.