These decisions show the types of issues we deal with and what the Ombudsman expects of agencies, including recommendations for administrative improvement.

2019/05301 (report not available)

The Ombudsman conducted an investigation following a complaint about the Department for Child Protection (the department). The complainant alleged that the department had failed to respond to disclosures by two children, alleging that they had been sexually abused by an adult family member a number of years prior. One of the children continued to have contact with that person. The department assessed that the notifications required a response, but then closed the matters without taking investigative action.

In response to the Ombudsman’s investigation, the department explained that it had not conducted an investigation of the allegations because of their historical nature, the broader circumstances of a family dispute, and the involvement of South Australia Police (SAPOL) and Child Protection Services (CPS). The Ombudsman considered each point but was not satisfied that the department’s view was reasonably open to it:

  • firstly, the Ombudsman queried the weight that the historical nature of the allegations ought to have been afforded. Internal departmental guidance did not provide for case closure on that basis, and the notifiers’ concerns had been raised in the context of ongoing contact
  • secondly, while the Ombudsman recognised the acrimonious circumstances surrounding the notifications, he concluded that this did not negate the department’s responsibility to determine whether the children had suffered or were at risk of harm
  • finally, while the department is not required to reinvestigate all matters that have been investigated by SAPOL, the department must consider its own obligations and the thresholds of the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017. It did not appear that this had occurred in this matter.

The Ombudsman was not satisfied that there was good reason for the department to take no further action after the notifications were assessed as requiring a response, and concluded that its response to the allegations was wrong within the meaning of section 25(1)(g) of the Ombudsman Act 1972. To remedy this error, the Ombudsman made three recommendations for staff training, policy change, and reassessment of the notifications

Removal and appointment of Adelaide Cemeteries Authority Board’s directors - Mr Stephan Knoll MP -  (PDF, 1.3 MB)

The Ombudsman, on referral from the ICAC, investigated former Minister Stephan Knoll’s removal and appointment of Adelaide Cemeteries Authority Board directors. The Ombudsman’s view was that Mr Knoll committed misconduct in public administration by purporting to remove directors from the Board.

Publication was delayed due to judicial review proceedings issued by Mr Knoll.  Those proceedings have recently been discontinued.*

*Note that the report is dated August 2020, but published in August 2021 due to this delay.

Department for Correctional Services (2019/09754)
(PDF, 725.9 KB)

The Ombudsman conducted an own initiative investigation of the Department for Correctional Services, and its management of applications made by prisoners under the Freedom of Information Act 1991 (the FOI Act) between 2018 and 2020. The investigation concerned the department’s management of FOI applications in their early stages, and its communication with applicants for that purpose. The Ombudsman also considered the department’s internal mail processes, and the availability of FOI advice for prisoners.

The Ombudsman concluded that seven administrative errors had occurred, particularly in regard to:

  • delay
  • how the department assisted and communicated with applicants, in accordance with the FOI Act

and made five recommendations.

Burnside Council (2019/09057) (PDF, 328.0 KB)After an investigation, the Ombudsman concluded that Cr Harvey Jones of the Burnside Council had committed misconduct by disclosing confidential information on two occasions. The Ombudsman recommended that Cr Jones be reprimanded.
Department of Human Services (2019/03083) (PDF, 617.6 KB)

Following the 2017/2018 annual report of Principal Community Visitor for the South Australian Community Visitor Scheme, the Ombudsman conducted an own initiative investigation of the Department for Human Services, and issues relating to its care of a Disability Services Client. The Ombudsman concluded that administrative error had occurred on a number of occasions, and recommendations were made to address the errors identified.

The Ombudsman’s report formed part of tendered evidence for Public Hearing 14 of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. The report has been redacted and de-identified.

District Council of Coober Pedy (2018/04687)
(PDF, 1.1 MB)

The Ombudsman conducted an investigation into the actions of the council as the retailer of electricity and water to Aboriginal community members in Coober Pedy. The Ombudsman concluded that the council inappropriately managed electricity and water accounts and debts in a manner that was unjust, unreasonable, wrong and contrary to law.

Kangaroo Island Council (2020/04017)No summary available.
Kangaroo Island Council (2019/06227) (PDF, 501.9 KB)

The Ombudsman investigated the Kangaroo Island Council in relation to its handling of its response to the Environmental Impact Statement concerning the development of a new deep-sea port. The Ombudsman investigated whether it was wrong for the council’s informal gathering of 7 May 2019 to be held in confidence, and whether a decision was made at the informal gathering, contrary to law. The Ombudsman found no error in relation to these two issues.

The Ombudsman also investigated whether it was wrong for the council’s Special Council Meeting of 16 May 2019 to be held in confidence. At this council meeting, the council finalised its response to the Environmental Impact Statement. The Ombudsman found that the council had no appropriate basis to hold this meeting in confidence and thus had acted in a way that was wrong. The Ombudsman made one recommendation.

District Council of Grant (2019/09540)
(PDF, 326.0 KB)

A report was made to the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption and subsequently referred to my Office for investigation, alleging that Mayor Richard Sage, District Council of Grant (the council) had:

  • failed to declare a conflict of interest at two separate council meetings
  • disclosed confidential information in relation to a recruitment process for a new CEO
  • refused to commit to the council’s Charter of Expected Behaviours (the Behavioural Charter).

The Ombudsman formed the view that Mayor Sage’s conduct in failing to declare a conflict of interest at one of the council meetings, and refusing to commit to the Behavioural Charter, amounted to misconduct in public administration.