|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
Ombudsman Victoria is a statutory authority formerly known as the Office of the Ombudsman. It was established in Victoria on 30 October 1973 under the Ombudsman Act 1973. The Ombudsman was the Chief Administrator and reports directly to both Houses of Parliament. However, the Ombudsman Act 1973 was the responsibility of the Premier.
The principle function of the Ombudsman was to enquire into or investigate any administrative action taken in any government department or public statutory body (to which the Ombudsman Act 1973 applies) or by any member of staff of a municipal council.
The jurisdiction of the Ombudsman did not extend to administrative actions taken by:
- a court of law or by a judge or magistrate,
- a person acting as legal adviser to the Crown or as counsel for the Crown in any
- a person acting in the capacity as a trustee under the Trustee Act 1958, although section 13(2A) of the Ombudsman Act allows the Ombudsman to investigate administrative action taken by State Trustees,
- the Auditor General,
- boards, tribunals, commissions, etc. which are constituted by a statute providing for the chair to be a lawyer (that is, they are presided over by a judge, a magistrate or a barrister or solicitor), for instance, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT),
- officers of the Governor of Victoria.
Additionally, unless there are special circumstances, the Office of the Ombudsman does not investigate complaints which may be appropriately decided by a court or tribunal, or are more than 12 months old.
The Ombudsman is empowered by the following legislation:
- Ombudsman Act 1973 - provided for the appointment of an Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman and detailed the Ombudsman's role and functions in relation to the investigation of complaints
- Ombudsman (Municipalities) Act 1976 extended the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman to local government in January 1977.
- Freedom of Information Act 1982 - enabled the community to access information in the possession of government agencies and provided the Ombudsman with specific powers in relation to the investigation of FOI complaints and other functions.
Freedom of Information Complaints
The Ombudsman had four major functions under Freedom of Information legislation. They were to:
- hear the complaint of an applicant who was advised that a document did not exist or could not be located,
- provide a certificate for a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal review of charges levied for documents provided under the Freedom of Information Act stating that the matter is of sufficient importance for the Tribunal to consider,
- provide a certificate, if appropriate, where an agency fails to make a decision on a request within a reasonable time stating that the question of the delay can be determined by the tribunal, and
- intervene, if appropriate, at a hearing in the tribunal in relation to an appeal, following an applicant's request to do so.
- Corrections Act 1986 - empowered the Ombudsman to investigate complaints concerning the actions of contractors managing prisons or police jails.
- Telecommunications (Interception) (State Provisions) Act 1988 - enabled the Victoria Police Force to obtain warrants to intercept and record telephone conversations and empowered the Ombudsman to audit police records to ensure compliance with the Act.
- Whistleblowers Protection Act 2001 - empowered the Ombudsman to investigate disclosures of improper conduct by public bodies and public officers, including members of Parliament and municipal councillors,
- Transport (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2003 - empowered the Ombudsman to investigate complaints regarding the actions of officers employed by private transport companies in exercising statutory duties in the detection of offences.
Until 1986 the Office of the Ombudsman also had responsibility for the review of the Victoria Police Internal Investigation Bureau files concerning complaints made against members of the Police Force.
In 1986, the Police Complaints Authority (VA 2834) was established under the provisions of the Police Regulations (Amendment) Act of 1985 which assumed this responsibility.
In May 1988, Ombudsman Victoria (VA 1037) was divided into two broad jurisdictions - the General Jurisdiction and the Police Jurisdiction.
Deputy Ombudsman (Police Complaints) Act 1988 - created the position of Deputy Ombudsman (Police Complaints) and replaced the role of the Police Complaints Authority (May 1988).The Deputy Ombudsman (Police Complaints) was the same person who held the position of Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman Legislation (Police Ombudsman) Act 2004 abolished the position of Deputy Ombudsman (Police Complaints) and created the Office of Police Ombudsman (June 2004). This office was held by the person who was Ombudsman. The Act increased the Police Ombudsman's powers to investigate Victoria Police. The Office of Police Ombudsman as a separate agency is subject to further research.
In November 2004, the Major Crime Legislation (Office of Police Integrity) Act commenced. The Director, Office of Police Integrity (OPI) VA 4792 replaced the Police Ombudsman.
The functions of the former office of Police Ombudsman were incorporated into the charter of OPI with additional functions that dealt with the ethical and professional standards of Victoria Police and the investigation of police corruption and serious misconduct. The head of OPI was the same person who held the position of Ombudsman.