Queensland Corrective Services was the most complained about agency in the 2019-20 financial year, according to the state ombud’s annual report.
Tabled in Parliament last week, the report revealed the Queensland Ombudsman received 7207 complaints, a decrease of 8% from the previous year. Of these, 3934 were about state government departments, 1053 were about statutory authorities, and 1859 were about local councils.
Of the 7204 finalised complaints, 1095 were not considered appropriate to investigate, and 4962 were deemed “premature” as the complaint was not first raised with the relevant agency.
The department which was complained about the most in 2019-20 was Queensland Corrective Services, with 981 complaints, up from 825 the previous year. It was followed by the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women (609), the Department of Housing and Public Works (516), the Department of Education (512), and Queensland Health (351).
A total of 1140 investigations were finalised in 2019-20, down 9% from the previous year. Of those, no error was found in 686 investigations, and continuing an investigation was not considered warranted in 274 investigations.
All complaints were finalised within 12 months, with 85% finalised within 10 days.
This year, the ombud made 244 recommendations to agencies, most of which called on agencies to improve a policy or procedure (87), review their decisions (36), expedite their actions (36), or provide better explanations (34). Every recommendation was accepted.
In 2019–20, 1744 public interest disclosures were reported, an increase of 52.8% compared with 1141 in 2018–19. The report noted that this large increase was “driven by a significant rise in the number of corrupt conduct PIDs reported”, which was likely due to changes to the definition of corrupt conduct under the Crime and Corruption Act 2001.
The ombud found a majority of PIDs were reported by state government departments (964), followed by hospital and health services (388), and the proportion of PIDs reported by employees was “relatively stable”.
The report noted that PIDs reported by role reporters increased significantly, from 107 in 2018–19 to 375 the following year.
“This continues the trend of growing awareness by agencies that officers who identify wrongdoing in the course of the performance of their duties (for example, human resources officers, auditors, inspectors and investigators) are entitled to the protections of the PID Act when they report wrongdoing,” it said.
Anthony Reilly took over as Queensland ombud in July, when Phil Clarke, whose career in the public sector has spanned more than 30 years, retired from the role.