Thursday, March 29, 2012

Starving the watchdog III

Last week we learned just how dire the crisis at the Ombudsman's Office was, with overall staff salaries stagnant since 2007, an exodus of trained staff for better paid positions, and so little money that it cannot even publish its case notes. So, what has the Officers of Parliament Committee decided to do about it?

Nothing. Their draft budget [PDF] recommends a small $300,000 a year increase to funding to allow for higher salaries - which will be clawed back over the next three years. Their proposed 2015/16 total funding is $8.937 million - just $170,000 higher than it is at present. In other words, a subinflation increase, or a cut in real terms. As for the workload, they propose to allow the Ombudsman to manage it by refusing complaints. Because that will work out so well in a time of budgetry pressure...

So basically, the government's response to a starving watchdog is to starve it further. Heckuva job, guys, heckuva job.