Complaining to the Ombudsman
Who Can Complain?
Anyone can complain to the Ombudsman; individuals, organisations or incorporated bodies. Even a government agency can complain about the administrative actions of another agency. Complaints must normally be made by the person affected by the administrative action but in special circumstances the complaint may be lodged by an agent such as a close relative, a welfare officer or a solicitor.
When to Complain
The Ombudsman acts as an office of last resort. This means that a person should first try to resolve their problem by talking or writing to the agency concerned. If they have not already done so, the Ombudsman will usually refer them back to the agency.
Sometimes the matter can be resolved satisfactorily just by asking a department to reconsider its action or decision. However, if the person is still not satisfied, or if there is an unreasonable delay in answering their request, then they should contact the Ombudsman.
How to Make a Complaint
The Tasmanian Act refers to complaints being made in writing. However, in practice the Ombudsman is willing to receive complaints orally, by email, by telephone or in person. The Ombudsman aims to make it as simple and as easy as possible for a person to air a grievance. The Ombudsman may require them to provide details in writing, in which case the Ombudsman’s staff will provide any assistance which is necessary. Difficulty with English or some other problem should not deter a person from complaining. Interpreter services can be arranged if necessary. The website has been made more accessible with ESL links.
Appointments can readily be made by telephoning the hotline, or lodging an inquiry online. Officers may also undertake site visits.
What Should be Included in the Complaint?
The person should state the facts of the dispute, avoiding their own opinion. They should identify the administrative action or decision which has caused the complaint, giving:
- the name of the government agency;
- the date or dates on which the actions occurred; and
- if known, the person who took the action.
They should include the reasons why they consider the action or decision to be defective or unreasonable and what they would like done about it.
If the complaint is made in writing, they should include copies of any relevant written material which might assist the Ombudsman’s enquiries or bring this with them if they come in person.
In the course of an investigation the Ombudsman may copy materials provided by a complainant and forward them to the authority complained about. Hence any information a complainant wishes to keep confidential should be marked ‘confidential for the information of the Ombudsman’. This may however have the effect of slowing down an investigation.
What will it Cost?
There is no charge for the Ombudsman’s services.