Who can complain?
People, companies, organisations and associations may complain. An agent such as a relative, solicitor, welfare officer or an accountant may lodge a complaint for someone else. Complaints may be lodged in writing, by telephone or at a personal interview.
What the Ombudsman can investigate
The Ombudsman has the power to look into all administrative actions including:
- decisions or recommendations
- refusal or failure to take action
The Ombudsman is empowered by legislation to investigate an administrative act (a decision, or refusal to make a decision, by an officer of a government department, which is subject to review either internally, or externally) on the Ombudsman's own initiative. This power is frequently used.
Limits to the Ombudsman's investigative powers
In contrast the Ombudsman cannot investigate matters involving a judicial or legislative function of government or if the matter involves policy rather than administrative decisions.
This distinction can be difficult to draw.
In Salisbury City Council v Biganovsky (1990) 70 LGRA 71, the South Australian State Ombudsman investigated a complaint about a council policy on calculation of fees to a community group for using council premises. The Court held that the Ombudsman could investigate and report on the way that the council's policy was applied but could not report on or recommend changes to the policy itself.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.