Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 08 Hansard (Wednesday, 17 August 2011) . . Page.. 3320 ..
the government to respond to the public accounts committee. Basically, what both things are saying is that the Ombudsman has done a substantive body of work on complaint handling and we would like to see the government respond to it. There are things in there which I think would definitely lead to improvements in the government’s complaint handling.
The next issue that we looked at was the implementation of the Auditor-General’s recommendations. Being PAC, this is something we always look at. We have asked the government to report back to the Assembly on how it is actually implementing the Auditor-General’s recommendations.
Our last recommendation dealt with the new directorate structure, which of course occurred after the audit report. We are concerned that the new directorate structure could at the very least in the short run make the handling of complaints and feedback harder because now it is not always obvious where things live. Certainly, as a member, I have been finding that sometimes and I am sure that members of the public will be finding that even more so. I commend the report to the Assembly.
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (10.14): I will just say a few words as well and again thank the chair, Mr Hargreaves, and Dr Cullen for their efforts in putting this report together. I might start with the appendix to the report. For members who have not seen it, the Australian Capital Territory Ombudsman, coincidentally, has been putting his own report together. In his document, entitled Room for improvement, he makes 10 recommendations. He then outlines why he thinks they are applicable and how they will benefit the public of the ACT in making sure that we have across the whole of the ACT government a consistent delivery of the way in which complaints are handled.
The committee has, at paragraph 3.23, listed each of those. It has just taken the 10 recommendations out and put them in the text of the report and suggests that the government should provide the public accounts committee with a written response to each of the 10 recommendations and how they intend to improve the process. It is interesting that this has come at a time when the committee had some concerns about the process. As Ms Le Couteur said, we all receive representations from constituents when they do not get the satisfaction that they would like from the process which we then make on their behalf to ministers.
It is interesting that somebody as senior as the ACT Ombudsman considered this at the same time, given how he had been approached. He says that in 2010-11 complaints to the ACT Ombudsman’s office were up about 19 per cent on the previous financial year—from more than 500 to more than 600 complaints. That should be of concern to all of us. I think we all know that for all those who feel able to and know how to navigate the system and can complain, there are a lot of people out there who feel excluded from the system or simply do not have the ability to make a complaint on their behalf. It should be easier. The Ombudsman presents a way forward.
In the four recommendations the committee says that there should be a whole-of-government policy for the management of feedback and complaints. It seems passing