When to use Ombudsman service
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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).
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