Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Still underfunding the watchdog

The Government Administration Committee has completed its annual review of the Office of the Ombudsmen, and thinks it is still underfunded. After noting high caseloads, a backlog of complaints and the chilling effect that is having on possible complainants, they go on to say:

Given these metrics, we asked why the Chief Ombudsman stated in the media that the Office does not need more resources. She clarified that the Office has never had enough resources, but that it must do the best with what it has and seek to increase efficiencies where possible.

We commend the Office for the difficult and important work it does, on its progress in reducing staff workloads, and on its Continuous Practice Improvement strategy to increase the quality and efficiency of its work. We also note the extensive changes, restructuring, and renewal within the Office during the past decade to modernise its operating model and practices to match its expanding mandate and functions. Nevertheless, we believe the Office is under-resourced and over-worked, and would benefit from additional resources.

They don't suggest an actual figure, but when faced with a (former) Chief Ombudsman who was clearly cowed by government austerity into not asking for any more money to ensure that she could do her job properly, that's not surprising. Hopefully though the committee will follow this up with the new Chief Ombudsman and find out what is required. The overall budget for the office ($10 million) is pocket change on a government scale, so it shouldn't take that much money to make a significant difference.