When to use Om­buds­man ser­vice

Have you had a hear­ing test re­cently?

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION - You will re­ceive:

The Om­buds­man is an in­de­pen­dent body that as­sists peo­ple to deal with gov­ern­ment agen­cies, such as de­part­ments, min­istries, crown en­ti­ties, dis­trict health boards, state-owned en­ter­prises, ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions and school boards of trus­tees.

The Om­buds­man also deals with pro­tected dis­clo­sures/whistle­blow­ing and mon­i­tor­ing places of de­ten­tion.

It over­sees the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the United Na­tions Dis­abil­i­ties Con­ven­tion.

The Om­buds­man can­not in­ves­ti­gate Gov­ern­ment min­is­ters or the po­lice (ex­cept re­gard­ing Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion re­quests), courts, tri­bunals or full lo­cal coun­cil de­ci­sions but can look at ad­vice given to min­is­ters and coun­cils by of­fi­cials.

If you have an is­sue you should first try to re­solve your com­plaint through the agency’s own dis­pute res­o­lu­tion process. If it does not have one, you should write to the chief ex­ec­u­tive. The Om­buds­man may refuse to in­ves­ti­gate your com­plaint if you have an al­ter­na­tive rem­edy avail­able, the is­sue is too old (over 12 months), is triv­ial or vex­a­tious, or if you do not have suf­fi­cient per­sonal in­ter­est in the mat­ter.

The Om­buds­man deals with the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act and the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion and Meet­ings Act. You can re­quest in­for­ma­tion held by min­is­ters plus cen­tral and lo­cal gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

Of­fi­cial in­for­ma­tion is that held by the agency, such as re­ports, doc­u­ments, record­ings and of­fi­cial mem­o­ries ( even if not writ­ten down), rea­sons for de­ci­sions, man­u­als, agen­das and min­utes of meet­ings.

Any­one can ap­ply for lo­cal gov­ern­ment in­for­ma­tion, but to ap­ply for cen­tral gov­ern­ment in­for­ma­tion you must be a New Zealand cit­i­zen or per­ma­nent res­i­dent and in New Zealand.

Com­pa­nies regis­tered or lo­cated in New Zealand can also re­quest in­for­ma­tion.

Your re­quest for in­for­ma­tion must be re­sponded to within 20 work­ing days (with ex­ten­sions for large vol­umes of ma­te­rial or con­sul­ta­tions re­quired).

Of­fi­cial in­for­ma­tion should be made avail­able to you un­less there is a good rea­son to with­hold the in­for­ma­tion and those rea­sons are set out in the Acts.

If re­lease of in­for­ma­tion is re­fused, you must be told the rea­son. If you have re­quested in­for­ma­tion from an agency you can ask the Om­buds­man to inves- tigate the agency’s de­ci­sions, ac­tions or in­ac­tions.

There is no set form for a com­plaint, but there is an on­line com­plaint form on the Om­buds­man’s web­site you may use.

Once your com­plaint is re­ceived, the Om­buds­man’s of­fice will ac­knowl­edge it and make in­for­mal in­quiries to at­tempt a res­o­lu­tion.

If it de­cides to for­mally in­ves­ti­gate, it will seek a re­sponse from the agency and view any with­held in­for­ma­tion.

It may also con­sult other agen­cies, such as the Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner.

The Om­buds­man will form a provisional opin­ion and give you and the agency an op­por­tu­nity to com­ment.

A fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tion or decision will be made and it is bind­ing on the agency (sub­ject to pow­ers of veto by Cab­i­net and coun­cils).

If you need help with your com­plaint to the Om­buds­man, you can con­tact its of­fice. In some in­stances you may also wish to seek le­gal as­sis­tance.

If the Om­buds­man de­cides to rec­om­mend the re­lease of in­for­ma­tion, it is up to the agency to re­lease that in­for­ma­tion (not the Om­buds­man’s of­fice).

Col­umn cour­tesy of Rainey Collins Lawyers phone 0800 733 484. If you have an in­quiry, email aknowsley@rain­ey­collins.co.nz. 98 Johnsonville Rd, Johnsonville Free park­ing Find us on Face­book www.welling­ton­hear­ing­care.co.nz

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