Ombudsman’s Office working faster
Ombudsman’s Office working faster, despite increasing workload
Date 20 October 2016
The Office of the Ombudsman’s workload has again increased this past year, but the office is resolving complaints faster, and in greater numbers, than the previous year.
In his Annual Report, tabled in Parliament today, Chief Ombudsman Judge Peter Boshier says the office is already making great strides in its efforts to be more timely, agile and responsive.
The Ombudsman received 12,595 complaints and other work in the 2015-16 year, four percent more than the previous year, and the second highest number ever received in one year.
“Despite the volume of work increasing, we completed seven percent more work than last year, and finished the year with 11 percent less work on hand than at the same time last year,” he says.
Overall, the Ombudsman closed 178 more complaints than were received, meaning the office is starting to make “significant inroads” into the backlog of complaints.
“Another new target is to work towards seven out of 10 of the complaints we receive being resolved with three months, and no case accepted by this office should remain outstanding beyond 12 months,” Judge Boshier says.
Results in this year’s Annual Report are already reflecting those efforts for more timely resolution, with 58 percent of all complaints resolved within three months, and 85 percent within 12 months.
Since starting as Chief Ombudsman last December, Judge Boshier’s focus has been on making change to enable best possible service from the Ombudsman, in line with the roadmap for future improvement set down by his predecessor Dame Beverley Wakem.
“From a visit to Australia at the start of the year, I learnt our Australian counterparts had faced similar challenges of growing workloads creating backlogs of work. They had changed the way they worked to achieve very quick front-end assessment, and ensure that really hard cases that need considerable work receive this but in a timely fashion.”
Judge Boshier says the Ombudsman plays a key role in ensuring good government and fair outcomes for New Zealanders through independent oversight.
“In order to fulfil that role to the highest possible standard, we have to work electronically to keep our work moving, and we must work according to timeframes that are modern, and geared to promptness and efficiency.”
In this year’s Annual Report, Judge Boshier also signals his intention to investigate the treatment of prisoners with high mental health needs.
“We have becoming increasingly concerned at the inadequacy of appropriate facilities, especially for prisoners with high mental health needs. It is an issue I intend to pursue in the coming year with the relevant government agencies.
“I am also concerned about the vulnerability of those detained in privately run dementia units, and who presently appear to have no independent oversight in the same way that publicly funded institutional patients have. This anomaly is worthy of careful discussion,” he says.