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Waka Tangata: APOR E-news (December 2019)

Peter Boshier
Issue date:

News and views from integrity organisations in the Pacific and Australasia



Ngā mihi nui kia koutou katoa, warm greetings to you all.
And welcome to this edition of Waka Tangata.

The adage ‘Think globally, act locally’ could well be the mantra for integrity institutions in the Asia-Pacific region, and indeed further afield.

One of the features of the past few months has been outreach into the Pacific and deeper into Asia, particularly by the New Zealand and Australian Ombudsmen. While we sometimes instigate this, we also learn a great deal from these visits and reciprocal visits to our countries – it is very much a two way street.

We try to adapt what we learn to our own practices if applicable. For example, we are currently undertaking some assistance in the Cook Islands, a nation with a special relationship with New Zealand, and one keen to build on 35 years of having an Office of the Ombudsman. I am sure our new Manager International Development and Engagement Eleanor Tuck will come back with new ideas and insights we can use.

Closer to home, it has been interesting scanning through the various recent annual reports and seeing how much local outreach work is happening in various jurisdictions – citizens outside major towns and cities are just as entitled to know and use our services. 

For example, it was interesting to see the Queensland Ombudsman reporting delivering 247 training sessions, of which 96 were delivered regionally, and participating in 54 community engagement activities. And I know that in many Pacific nations, Ombudsmen do outreach to far-flung communities.

For our part, our Official Information Practice Investigations, which focus on investigating government agencies’ official information practices and procedures, currently have a focus on local government. This has enabled my Office to travel literally the length of New Zealand to look at different models of operating. These reports are useful, for the council being investigated and other local authorities looking for ways to improve the way they deal with official information requests. They also provide insights that may be useful for our international colleagues despite their systems not being identical to ours.

Finally, it was a pleasure seeing so many representatives at the 31st Australasian and Pacific Ombudsman Region (APOR) Conference in Taiwan in late September.
As APOR President, can I extend a very big thank-you to Dr Chang Po-ya and all her staff at the Control Yuan for hosting such an excellent event.
Ngā mihi, kind regards

Peter Boshier
Chief Ombudsman, Aotearoa/New Zealand
Fairness for all/Te tika mo te katoa 


Public online system of political donation records launched

The Control Yuan has recently established an online system of political donation records where the public can check the income and expenditures of political parties, groups and candidates, following an amendment to the Political Donation Act in 2018.

The system, which will help facilitate public accountability and transparency with respect to political donations, was launched on 14 August.

The first data made available was the political donation accounting reports of candidates in the ‘nine-in-one’ elections (where nine types of civic leaders are elected) held in 2018 which contained 2,241 declarations. The reports of candidates in by-elections for the 9th Legislative Yuan and the legislative elections in 2016, as well as the annual reports of political parties and groups for 2018, will be posted on the online system within the legally prescribed period.

Users can type in key words or use the advanced search function to find the data on specific political parties, groups, candidates, donators, and expenditure item. They can also search by election, and download the entire files for each of the election districts and candidates for a specific election for comparative research and analysis.

The system can be accessed directly or via the Sunshine Acts official website. The Sunshine Acts are a set of four pieces of legislation through which the Control Yuan is responsible for ensuring government accountability, and empowers it to issue penalties and pass resolutions on cases submitted for inspection.

Building capability in the Pacific

Developing integrity institutions capabilities has been a keen focus of Australian and New Zealand Ombudsmen lately.

In July, 14 representatives from the Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu underwent Ombudsman investigator training in Fiji.

The aim was to build the Ombudsman investigators’ capacity in the Pacific region, and strengthen relationships and networks to promote ongoing engagement and support. Training the group of investigators was a good way for them to be able to implement what they have learned and also assist others in their offices grow their skills.
The Fiji training group with New Zealand Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier (middle front)
The Office of the New Zealand Ombudsman led the training, which took a typical complaint through the whole investigation process from incoming communication through to the conclusion, whether that is an agreed outcome or a formal report.

The programme was co-sponsored by the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI), and had input from the Victorian, Western Australian, and Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman’s offices to assist in presenting the material.

While none of the offices have exactly the same models of investigation, the underlying principles of fairness and transparency were common to all.

The programme followed a two-day United Nations workshop in March in Vanuatu, when the Office of the New Zealand Ombudsman delivered training on prison investigations and inspections.

The Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman (OCO) also has agreements in place with its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to work with Ombudsman offices and integrity bodies in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Samoa. 

The funding is used to strengthen integrity institutions and provide assistance to international partners to promote best practice and enhance the effectiveness of regional Ombudsman offices and allied integrity bodies. The benefits of these programs are shared, with the OCO learning from engaging with and understanding the broader context within which integrity institutions in the Indo-Pacific region operate.

In September, as part of its partnership with the Office of the Ombudsman of the Solomon Islands (OOSI) and the Solomon Islands Leadership Code Commission (LCC), the OCO staff travelled to Honiara to work with OOSI on a complaint handling system project. This was valuable work for setting a standard for complaint handling in the Solomon Islands.

During the visit, OCO staff worked with OOSI to draft a standard best-practice complaint handling policy/guidance documentation for Solomon Islands Government bodies. Once completed, OOSI plans to share the policy with Government ministries and ask them to test it. 

Even further afield, the New Zealand Ombudsman travelled to Myanmar in June at the request of its government to assist in the scoping for a new integrity agency. A similar visit was undertaken in Malaysia during September to support the work well underway there to set up an Ombudsman office.


Report released on public enterprises

In June, the Tongan Ombudsman, ‘Aisea H. Taumoepeau, SC, released the results of his Own Motion Investigation (OMI) on a series of allegations of maladministration in the Boards of Directors of the Public Enterprises (PE). 

The investigation was sparked by a newspaper article published in the Kele’a newspaper in December 2018, and led to six allegations being scrutinised.
Of the six issues investigated, only one, relating to the purchase of the MV Niuvakai in 2014 by The Friendly Island Shipping Agency (FISA), had a recommendation for improvement. The Ombudsman recommended that FISA and its Board of Directors ensure that due diligence work is carried out in purchasing of any vessel of significant magnitude or value. 

The other findings in respect of the allegations made were as follows:
  • PE Boards do not follow the same procurement process as Government ministries, and can spend in excess of $1 million without utilizing the procurement process. The Ombudsman had the opinion that public enterprises had the power to create rules and procedures to govern their procurement processes.
  • Board members are taking loans from Board funds. The Ombudsman found no evidence to back up the allegation.
  • Board members being paid gratuity. The gratuity practice was discontinued in mid-2018, and was amended that gratuity should consist of only their annual director’s fees and meeting fees.
  • A Director of a Public Enterprise had a Board meeting in Barcelona. The investigation found that Tonga Airport Limited Board members attending the World Route 2017, and undertaking legal negotiations over breach of contract with a supplier, were crucial to the future development of the airport.
  • Some PE Board Members paid overtime, when it is normally for low earners not including CEOs and other higher paid employees. The Ombudsman held the opinion that the process used to nominate the Directors of the Tonga Power Board to carry out work outside their normal Directors functions justified special rates to be paid to them.
The Office of the Ombudsman and the Ministry of Public Enterprises worked in partnership on this OMI.

South Australia

Use of spit hoods contrary to the law

The application of ‘spit hoods’ to children and young people accommodated in South  Australia’s youth detention centre is contrary to the Charter of Rights for youth detainees and  contrary to law, South Australian Ombudsman Wayne Lines has determined.

Mr Lines investigated the use of spit hoods within the Adelaide Youth Training Centre following calls from civil society in the wake of the Royal Commission into the Northern Territory’s youth detention system.

Tabling his investigation report in the South Australian Parliament, Mr Lines called on the South Australian government to ban the use of spit hoods within the Adelaide Youth Training Centre within 12 months.

In his investigation report, Mr Lines observed: “South Australia has the dubious honour of being the only jurisdiction in Australia that authorises the use of spit hoods in its youth detention centres. All other states and territories have banned their use or have never made use of the implements.”

Mr Lines observed that the application of spit hoods to children and young people was ‘not consistent with the objects and guiding principles of the youth justice system’ and appeared contrary to South Australia’s Charter of Rights for Youths Detained in Training Centres.

Mr Lines observed that use of the implements also risked contravening several accepted international human rights standards, including the prohibition against the use of instruments of restraint and force on children in circumstances causing humiliation or degradation.

The report noted that staff within the Adelaide Youth Training Centre appeared to be making encouraging progress in reducing the use of spit hoods in the facility.

Mr Lines recommended that the South Australian government investigate whether additional protective equipment, training and other measures consistent with trauma-informed practice could be made available to staff working in the Adelaide Youth Training Centre.

In his report, Mr Lines also criticised the provision in South Australia’s Youth Justice Administration Act 2016 authorising the use of force for the purposes of ‘maintain[ing] order’ in a youth training centre. Mr Lines said:

“[This] appears to be out of step with most other Australian jurisdictions and inconsistent with international best practice, which generally prohibits the use of force against children and young people unless necessary to prevent a risk of injury or serious property damage.”

Mr Lines recommended that the South Australian government review that provision and consider whether it should be repealed.

South Australia’s Department for Human Services, which administers the Adelaide Youth Training Centre, has indicated that it accepts the Ombudsman’s recommendation to phase out the use of spit hoods ‘in principle’.

International cooperation

Thai Ombudsman visits colleagues in Australia and New Zealand

Visit at the Thai Community in Wellington
From 30 August to 8 September 2019, the Chief Ombudsman of Thailand and IOI Treasurer Viddhavat Rajatanun led a delegation from the office of the Ombudsman Thailand (OMT) to Perth and Wellington.

While in Perth, the OMT had a high-level policy meeting with Chris Field, Western Australian Ombudsman and IOI Second Vice-President. The two Ombudsmen signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Ombudsman Thailand and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administrative Investigation Western Australia (Ombudsman Western Australia). This MOU stands as OMT’s first bilateral cooperation outside Asia, and the Western Australian Ombudsman’s first MOU since the institution’s establishment in 1971.

This MOU covers a period of five years and will automatically be extended for another five years. The scope of activities include the redress of grievances of Thai and Western Australian nationals within the parties’ respective jurisdictions, and the exchange of best practices in working experiences which may lead to the development of training courses and the exchange of staff.

The OMT delegation then travelled to Wellington to participate in a high-level policy meeting with Peter Boshier, Chief Ombudsman of New Zealand and Regional President of the IOI’s Australasia and Pacific Region (APOR). Both parties agreed in principle to develop a new bilateral MOU to strengthen the relations between the institutions. Cooperation under the IOI United Nations Working Group, of which both Mr Rajatanun and Mr Boshier are members, was also discussed. 

OMT also raised the South East Asian Ombudsman Forum (SEAOF), an initiative spearheaded by OMT in creating a multilateral platform for Ombudsman colleagues in South-East Asia to cooperate and share best practices. OMT and the Ombudsman of New Zealand were in favour of seeking the possibility of extending cooperation between APOR and SEAOF following SEAOF’s establishment in February 2020.


'Unlawful and wrong'

Children and young people in Victorian prisons and youth justice systems are being damaged rather than rehabilitated through excessive use of isolation and separation, Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass has found.

During her inspection of three Victorian facilities – Port Phillip Prison, Malmsbury Youth Justice Precinct and Secure Welfare Services – earlier this year, Ms Glass found practices that were incompatible with local and international human rights laws.

“Legislation and official procedures acknowledge that children and young people should be isolated only as a last resort and for the minimum time necessary. But we found the procedures do not translate into practice.

“The direct impact is that many of the practices in both our youth justice and prison systems are likely to be contrary to law, incompatible with Victoria’s human rights legislation, oppressive, discriminatory or simply, wrong.”

At Port Phillip Prison, where there were about 170 young people aged 18-24 at the time of the inspection, Ms Glass found “an alarming number of instances of prolonged solitary confinement.

“In many cases we reviewed, the justification for separation seemed questionable and punitive.

“Young people were often separated for weeks in circumstances where there appeared to be little or no ongoing risk of harm to others. Victims were separated for the same time as perpetrators, sometimes for months, and good behaviour did not appear to result in less separation.”

At Malmsbury, there were about 13,000 lockdowns (when a child or young person is isolated in the interests of ‘security of the centre’) during a 12-month period, with about 40 per cent attributed to staff shortages.

Ms Glass said it was disturbing to see a disproportionate use of isolation on Aboriginal young people, given it had been known for decades that Aboriginal prisoners subjected to solitary confinement suffer “extreme anxiety”.

Of the three facilities inspected, only the ‘out of home’ care provided by Secure Welfare Services at its Ascot Vale and Maribyrnong campuses appeared to use seclusion as a last resort.

Read the full media release and report at

Decisions of interest

Papua New Guinea

The Ombudsman Commission has published its report regarding its investigation into the alleged improper borrowing of AU$1.239 billion from the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) to purchase 149,390,244 shares in Oil Search Ltd. It also investigated improper tender and procurement of consultants in relation to the borrowing.

The report contains important findings about the legality of the process followed to secure the loan with UBS, and the hiring of consultants and lawyers to facilitate this process.
The Report was done pursuant to the Commission's powers under the Constitution and the Organic Law on the Ombudsman Commission. The Commission decided to publish this report as a matter of public interest.

The Commission finalised its report after the Supreme Court decided that the Ombudsman Commission has jurisdiction over the office of the Prime Minister.

Following the tabling of the UBS Report, the Prime Minister announced the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into the procuring of the loan with UBS. The Commission will consider other related matters in addition to the matters covered in the UBS report, such as the subsequent sale of the shares in Oil Shares Ltd, which the PNG Government had initially obtained the loan from UBS to purchase.

Among other findings, in the opinion of the Ombudsman Commission the conduct of the then Prime Minister, Hon Peter McNeill, was wrong and improper when he committed the State to purchase of the shares in Oil Search without prior approval from the National Executive Council.

The Report was delivered to the Speaker of Parliament on 30 April 2019 and tabled in Parliament on 26 June 2019.

The full report can be read here.

Decisions of interest

Hong Kong

Ombudsman presents results of two direct investigation reports


Identifying and reporting child abuse

The Hong Kong Ombudsman, Ms Winnie Chiu, has released two direct investigations – Mechanism for Identifying and Reporting Suspected Child Abuse Cases and Government’s Planning and Arrangements for Ancillary Facilities for Electric Private Vehicles.

According to statistics from the Social Welfare Department (SWD), the number of newly reported child abuse cases in Hong Kong has been on the rise over the past years, with an increase of around 20% from 882 cases in 2008 to 1,064 cases in 2018. The problem has caused wide public concern. There have been criticisms that the reporting mechanism for preventing child abuses has been inadequate, and that people who have become aware of the situation are not required to report suspected child abuse cases.

The Office notes that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended as early as 2011 that all State parties establish mechanisms for reporting violence against children. Many countries, including the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Australia and Japan, have already enacted laws to require mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse cases.
The Ombudsman recommended that:
  • the Government should explore the feasibility of mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse cases;
  • the Education Bureau (EDB) should include in the Kindergarten Administration Guide the procedures for handling suspected child abuse cases;
  • the relevant contents of SWD’s Procedural Guide for Handling Child Abuse Cases and EDB’s related circulars/School Administration Guide should be as consistent as possible; and
  • EDB should conduct statistical analysis on the length of and reasons for students’ absence. 

Ancillary facilities for electric private vehicles

The focus of the second direct investigation was on the use of electric private vehicles (EPVs) for reducing roadside air pollution, and the fact that the number of EVs surged rapidly within a few years, but the growth in the number of public charging facilities has lagged far behind.

The investigation has found that the Government has revised, without clarifying to the public, the reasons and justifications behind its policy direction on, and measures for promoting, the use of EPVs in the light of the changing market situation and improvements in technology. As a result, the measures taken (including the planning and arrangements for ancillary facilities) have fallen short of public expectations. 

The Office also found that since 2014, the number of EPVs has soared while the number of public charging facilities has not shown any significant increase. In addition, there is a lack of long-term or achievable targets for the installation of charging facilities in existing buildings, and the authorities have failed to grasp the utilisation data of public charging facilities at non-government public car parks.

There is also the problem of poor management of parking spaces equipped with charging facilities at government public car parks. Those parking spaces are frequently occupied by non-EPVs, and the charging facilities are not properly repaired and maintained. Moreover, the Government has not formulated clear long-term fee-charging policy for EPV charging service, or long-term arrangements for the training of EPV mechanics and handling of retired EPV batteries. 

The Ombudsman made 15 improvement recommendations. 

Both reports can be read at

Decision of interest

Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman


Two reports about abuse in the Defence Force released

Two reports, and a recommendation of reparation, have been released by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

The first report, Defence’s policies for receiving and responding to reports of abuse, examines current Defence policies and procedures for the reporting and management of abuse, focussing on documentation. Subsequent reports will examine how the policies and procedures are applied in practice.

“For the most part, I am satisfied that Defence now has appropriate written policies and procedures in place for Defence personnel to report abuse, and for those who receive reports of abuse to know what is required of them,” said Commonwealth Ombudsman Michael Manthorpe.

“However I have made six recommendations in relation to the consistency and coherence of policies and procedures to assist in continuous improvement in this area.”

The Ombudsman welcomed Defence’s response to the report.

The second report is an overview of the Defence abuse reporting function and provides detailed information about how the Ombudsman’s Office has administered its Defence abuse reporting functions.

The report highlights that the Office continues to receive reports of serious physical or sexual abuse in the Defence Force. Most of the reports pertain to historic abuse, and the evidence drawn from the reports does not suggest that there are now systemic or highly concentrated locations of abuse in the way in which this was manifest in earlier decades. Nevertheless, the report reinforces the importance of Defence maintaining vigilance in this area.

The report also contains statistical information about the reports of abuse, and the steps that have been taken by the Ombudsman’s Office and Defence to respond to these. This includes recommendations to Defence to pay $15 million to more than 300 Defence members or former members.

“I am pleased that my Office has been able to assist some hundreds of Defence abuse survivors to have their voices heard, and receive financial or other acknowledgement for their experiences. The work is not completed, and we continue to seek to provide a trauma-informed, professional service to those who contact us,” Mr Manthorpe said.

Comings and goings

Vanuatu has a new Ombudsman, with Hamlison Bulu being sworn in as the country’s sixth Ombudsman in July for a five-year term.

Ombudsman Bulu has served as Vanuatu’s Attorney General and also a Judge in Vanuatu’s Supreme Courts. The Ombudsman Position has been vacant since Kalkot Mataskelekele completed his five-year term in December 2017. Alain Wai Molgos has been Acting Ombudsman in the interim.


Richard Pagen has been appointed Acting Chief Ombudsman by the Papua New Guinea Ombudsman Commission.

Prior to joining the Ombudsman Commission in 1999, Ombudsman Pagen worked as a geologist with Minorco Exploration Ltd based in Port Moresby, CRA Exploration in Australia and Anglo America Mining Exploration based in Mt. Hagen. He was an Interim Director, National Anti-Corruption Alliance (now commonly known as Task Force Sweep), and Director of the Ombudsman Commission Leadership Division.

He fills the position left vacant by former Chief Ombudsman Michael Dick whose two-and-a-half years’ service came to end on 4 October when he reached retirement age.


In short

There was no election required for the three APOR Regional Directors as the three existing directors, Peter Boshier (New Zealand – Regional President), Chris Field (Western Australia), and Deborah Glass (Victoria) were returned unopposed.
There wil be a new voting system for the election of the four International Ombudsman Institute Officers – President, the 1st and 2nd Vice-President and the Treasurer

The positions will be decided by all voting members, and for the first time, voting will be done electronically prior to the General Assembly. The General Assembly will take place in Dublin, Ireland from 17-22 May 2020.

If you have not done so already, please contact the General Secretariat ([email protected]) as soon as possible to establish a point of contact for your organisation for the purposes of voting.
The Cook Islands Ombudsman’s Office is promising to deal more quickly and transparently with public complaints, as it goes live with new computer systems, including a new case management system.

This will make it easier for the employees to track and monitor case status, and allow them faster capabilities to follow cases through. Complaints will be captured and stored, and reports will be formulated accordingly.


The immediate past Regional President of APOR, Connie Lau, has been awarded the Silver Bauhinia Star, the third highest civilian award in Hong Kong. She received it for her life-long commitment and exemplary service to the Hong Kong community.

Connie became Ombudsman in 2014, having previously worked with the Consumer Council since 1973. Appointed Hong Kong’s Ombudsman in 2014, she led her office in advancing public interest and prompting improvements in public governance by redressing grievances against maladministration by the Government and public bodies impartially. 

Under her leadership, the Consumer Council and the Office of The Ombudsman advocated for legislative changes to enhance consumer protection and promote amicable conflict resolution. Through her efforts, Hong Kong earned the respect of fellow Ombudsmen.

It’s annual report time for many APOR members. Below are recently released reports.

Hong KongControl YuanNew ZealandNew South WalesNorthern TerritoryAustralian CommonwealthQueensland,Victoria, and Western Australia.

Here are some key facts for Queensland:
  • 11,676 people contacted the Office for assistance about a complaint
  • 4,540 public sector officers across the state took part in Ombudsman training sessions – a record level of participation
  • Finalised 7,831 complaints
  • Closed 1,255 investigations
  • Preliminary assessment of complaints was completed in an average time of 3.3 days
  • 100% of investigative recommendations made to agencies were accepted
  • Delivered 247 training sessions; of these, 96 were delivered regionally
  • Participated in 54 community engagement activities.

Ararat Town Hall

The Victorian Ombudsman’s Revisiting councils and complaints shows many of the state’s councils are understating the number of complaints they receive, raising concerns they are failing to deal with dissatisfaction from their communities

The Ombudsman provided 79 summaries of how each council says it deals with complaints. There were some incongruous results. For example, Melbourne City Council said it received 88 complaints in 2018 while one of Victoria’s smallest shires - Ararat Rural City Council - said it received 1,180.


The Victorian Ombudsman also released a report examining the State Trustees’ management of vulnerable clients’ finances. Multiple cases indicated State Trustees failed to ensure client bills, expenses and aged care bonds were paid on time, and its actions reduced clients’ quality of life by placing them on unreasonable restricted budgets, when they had other entitlements they could claim.


Upcoming events


May 2020|Ireland

12th International Ombudsman Institute World Conference and General Assembly, Dublin

The Grand Hotel, Malahide, Dublin where the conference will be held.


The Office of the Ombudsman of Ireland is delighted to be hosting the 12th International Ombudsman Institute World Conference and General Assembly in Dublin from 17-22 May 2020.

The theme of the conference is Giving voice to the voiceless and will include discussions on best practice when working with groups of people who have difficulties in accessing our services including:

  • People with intellectual disabilities
  • Asylum seekers
  • Children and young people
  • First peoples
  • Homeless
  • Prisoners 
  • LGBTIQ+ community.

The registration website for the World Conference is now live. The website contains information about the conference including the programme, venue and how to get there. 

Register before 31 December 2019 for a reduced registration fee. Accommodation can also be booked through the website.


May 2020|Dublin

Australasian and Pacific Ombudsman Region (APOR) meeting

Instead of the annual Australasian and Pacific Ombudsman Region (APOR) meeting next year, there will be a regional mini-meeting as part of the IOI conference in Dublin in May. This will be an opportunity to catch up within our region, and to discuss any points we as a group wish to raise within the IOI wider discussion. We will be sending out agendas and more details nearer the time.


February  |  New Zealand

Leadership Forum

The New Zealand Ombudsman will be hosting a leadership forum for Ombudsmen and leaders of other similar institutions on 26-27 February 2019 in Auckland. It will be an opportunity for leaders to meet and discuss issues that are pertinent to people in their positions.  Invitations and more details will come soon. Please save the date.


Training courses

Training courses being held regionally:
Victoria – dealing with conflict of interest, and good complaint handling
New South Wales – includes a two-day workshop on investigating misconduct in the public sector
Queensland – includes managing unreasonable conduct.

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