How we decide to investigate

In certain circumstances, a discretion is available to the Ombudsman in deciding whether to refuse to investigate a matter (based on sections 13 and 17 of the Ombudsman Act). The bases for exercising this discretion are the public interest and the improvement of public administration.

In deciding whether an investigation may be in the public interest, the following criteria may be considered:

  • does the alleged administrative error amount to a serious failure to meet expected standards of public administration?
  • is the complaint about matters of serious concern and benefit to the public rather than simply an individual’s interest?
  • is there evidence of ongoing systemic failure in public administration?
  • are the circumstances of the complaint likely to arise again?
  • is the complaint about an error of process?
  • is the complaint about failures of ethical and transparent management?
  • does the complaint relate to matters of public safety and security, the economic well-being of South Australia, the protection of public well-being, the protection of human rights or the rights and freedoms of citizens?
  • has the complainant suffered significant personal loss or is the complainant in vulnerable circumstances?
  • would investigation of the complaint be likely to lead to meaningful outcomes for the complainant and/or to the improvement of public administration?
  • has another review body considered the matter or is another body more appropriate for reviewing the matter?
  • what is the likelihood of collecting sufficient evidence to support a finding of administrative error?
  • would investigation of the complaint involve effort and resources that are proportionate to the seriousness of the matter?