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Ombudsman’s Office Workload Doubles

Ombudsman’s Office Workload Doubles

Date: September 27, 2012

The Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem says the Office of the Ombudsman continues to be under acute pressure as it grapples with an increasing number of complaints.

The Office ended the 2011/2012 year with 10,636 complaints and other contacts received, up 22% on the previous year. Cases on hand at any time have grown from an average of 800 to over 1700.

She says that the Office has worked vigorously on streamlining its processes to cope with the workload – developing better and smarter ways to manage its work and, as a consequence, has improved its throughput by 13%.

However, Dame Beverley says there is an increasing demand for the Ombudsmen’s help.

“There’s more work coming through than we can get out the other end of the process.

“There is significant pressure on staff and regretfully we are missing targets for timeliness in responding to some people asking for help.

“That means that there are some cases we just do not have the resources to deal with immediately. We don’t have the funding to hire the staff required to deal with the workload. However, we do keep the cases under review so we can move swiftly if they become urgent.”

Dame Beverley says the Office’s role, which is to ensure people are treated fairly in New Zealand, must not be compromised by underfunding.

“Despite the pressure, increased efficiency means that a number of major investigations were able to be progressed last year including prisoner health services, bullying in schools and decision making by Immigration New Zealand around Pacific residence quotas,” says Dame Beverley.

“But the bottom line is that complaints have not decreased. We need to maintain people’s faith in the office that we are there to help and can help - both by investigating individual grievances and also identifying areas where agencies can improve the quality of their administrative processes and decision making to provide fair, just and transparent delivery of services.”

The Office received a small budget increase last year and while that was welcomed, Dame Beverley says it was only about a third of what was required to manage the growth in complaints.

“The increase was not sufficient for us to recruit the staff we need to deal with the growing workload,” she says.

The full report can be found on www.ombudsman.parliament.nz


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