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How does one compain about senior public servants?

By 7 May 2009 32

Hello Riot Act. Long time reader, first time poster. I have a small question and thought someone on here might have a sensible answer.

How does one officially complain about the actions of a Senior ACT public servant?

Several of my friends have children with Disabilities and are dependant on the Government for funding.

The problem is, while they want their kids to use some particulr services,  the big wig at Disability ACT has decided that they will be told where their children can and can’t go.

If they do not agree with what they are told then it is intimated that they may lose the funding.

They are not given a choice of what they want to do, in direct contradiction to this departments rhetoric.

Where does someone go to complain about very senior public servants? I know the minister is an obvious choice however this route has been taken in the past and appears to get nowhere.

Is there an ombudsman?

Thanks in advance for any advice. 

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32 Responses to How does one compain about senior public servants?
#1
frontrow9:36 am, 07 May 09

Yes. The Commonwealth Ombudsman also has the role of the ACT Ombudsman.

#2
neanderthalsis9:46 am, 07 May 09

If the Minister hasn’t delivered, try the Shadow. It is amazing how a Shadow Minister sprouting in the media on the failings of the government can motivate the administration to act.

#3
deezagood9:49 am, 07 May 09

Start making some noise; maybe contact the media too. This seems a totally unacceptable situation (as if life isn’t hard enough for parents who have kids with disabilities?).

#4
Furry Jesus9:55 am, 07 May 09

You haven’t really given much information. What reason were they given for why they couldn’t use the services they wanted? For a matter to be taken up by the head of Disability ACT, there must be a little more history…

#5
astrojax9:56 am, 07 May 09

try the minister, or chief minister (at least cc him in to the correspondence), first – are you going to write or wil your aggreived friends? i suggest both parties, your letter in support of the gov’t's policies.

#6
Thumper10:05 am, 07 May 09

A letter to the Minister responsible and cced into the CM and the Opposition leader. You may want to cc the Greens leader as well so that the government can’t just fob you off with a form letter reply.

#7
VYBerlinaV8_the_one_10:14 am, 07 May 09

I’m going to air what could be an unpopular view, and suggest that more information is provided as to exactly what this actually means. “The problem is, while they want their kids to use some particulr services, the big wig at Disability ACT has decided that they will be told where their children can and can’t go. “

We should remember that the govt does not have unlimited resources, and if parents don’t want their kids participating in the programs provided then there’s only so much that can be done to help.

Like I said, and unpopular view and possibly wide of the mark. Thoughts anyone?

#8
Jim Jones10:22 am, 07 May 09

Well, it’s impossible to know whether the complaint is legit or not based on the given info (and yes, resources are limited and have to be portioned appropriately so that they do the most good that they can).

The only question anyone here could really answer is ‘where do I go to complain’. Probably best to ignore the (obviously partisan) comments about how evil the public servant in question was.

#9
RayP10:30 am, 07 May 09

You should exercise extreme caution in criticising or challenging the decisions of a senior Canberra public servant. Senior public servants in Canberra have considerable capacity to defend themselves.

You are likely to be disappointed by the assistance that is provided by agencies like the Ombudsman.

There do not appear to be any good sources of support available in the ACT for citizens who want to challenge the conduct of senior public servants.

This is not to say that there are not people who would be concerned and who may like to do things, but that they and you may be disappointed by what they are able to achieve.

I would suggest that before you do anything that you read “The Whistleblowers Handbook” by Brian Martin. It may alert you to what may lie ahead.

Canberra can be a savage place for those who criticise public servants.

#10
trevar10:34 am, 07 May 09

neanderthalsis said :

If the Minister hasn’t delivered, try the Shadow. It is amazing how a Shadow Minister sprouting in the media on the failings of the government can motivate the administration to act.

Regardless of whether your complaint is valid, neanderthal is right. A complaint should always be addressed to both the minister and the shadow minister. Ministers are useless without their shadows.

#11
Mike Crowther10:36 am, 07 May 09

I suggest you read ‘Capital Tyranny’ by Caroline Ambrus. ACT Ministers routinely act outside the law and allow their public servants to do the same if it suits their purpose. The system is designed to allow this and the joke that passes for freedom of information and investigative journalism in this town prevent vast tracts of it from ever becoming public.

I like Neanderthalsis idea of shadow ministers, although three years out from an election governments tend to feel quite smug and bulletproof. Good luck.

#12
Jim Jones10:37 am, 07 May 09

RaypP, I think you might need to read the post a bit more closely. The OP isn’t a ‘whistleblower’ at all, s/he is a member of the public with a complaint about a government decision.

#13
RayP10:48 am, 07 May 09

Jim Jones, Brian Martin’s book has much broader application than the title suggests. It provides good advice on things like common mistakes and building support for anyone thinking of questioning the conduct of a decision maker.

As a further suggestion for MBn, you could look at what services are available in other states. They may be better or they may not.

It is likely to be easier to shift states than to get your concerns with a public servant addressed in Canberra. A few years down the track you may wish that you had taken the easy option and shifted states.

#14
Muttsybignuts10:57 am, 07 May 09

I work in the Disability area in Canberra and have a fair understanding of what the issues are here.
Disability ACT goes to great length to tell everyone that their mission is to give people with Disabilities the right ( and resources) to choose what they need to do to live a valued life. Like any Government department there is never enough money to give everybody what they need or want. To this end Disability ACT does the best it can with what it has.
The issue her appears to be that some people with Disabilities and their carers (parents) are being told where they can and cant go instead of being given an amount of funding and being able to choose for themselves what services they use.
I have had similar experiences in the service I work for. Parents want to use this service and are apparently told by Disability ACT that this service isn’t appropriate for their children and that they should instead look at “X” service. While this may indeed be the case, some people feel railroaded in a direction instead of being able to choose for themselves.
From a personal point of view, I feel slighted because often these recommendations are made without the Government people making the decisions every bothering to find out what our service ( and others)really does. If they had an accurate picture they might not be so hasty to steer people in another direction.
Anyhoo, as for complaining, I also advise extreme caution. If the personalities involved are as evil as made out then you might shoot yourself in the foot. After all the attention dies down ( if you use media or Shadows etc) you may be left with a very angry, powerful public servant who will find ways for your funding to very quickly dry up. People with significant disabilities have a lifelong hard slog as it is. Getting on the wrong side of the Government only makes it worse when you are dependent on them for help. It isn’t right of course. It is just how it is.

#15
S4anta11:14 am, 07 May 09

One things that I do enjoy about this site is any post that has the words ‘complain’ and ‘public servant’ in its title.

99% of the time I am then remembering a coversation I had with a colleague whilst in queue for a committee that went along the lines of ‘everytime a piper blows his pipe, the rats come out to play’.

#16
Bondini11:35 am, 07 May 09

Try the Disability Commissioner at ACT Human Rights (http://www.hrc.act.gov.au/index.cfm?MasterTypeID=4&SectionTypeID=38&MainTypeID=38) … I think it’s their job.

#17
s-s-a11:53 am, 07 May 09

Irrespective of the rationing of money issue, it is NEVER acceptable to insinuate that complainers will have funding withdrawn. This kind of disgusting behaviour amounts to intimidation and stand-over tactics. Please complain!

The ACT has a Disability Commissioner in the Human Rights Office. more info here

I suspect I know who the bigwig in question might be. Needs to be brought to account for this!

If Sandra Lambert was still CEO of DHCS I’d suggest requesting a meeting with her to discuss. Haven’t had anything to do with the new CEO, but that could still be an option?

#18
baldilocks12:52 pm, 07 May 09

Listen to RayP and Mike Crowther folks

They are (unfortunately) spot on.

Basically it is a question of power. It does not matter if XXXX act of government says that this is the law or whatever, it basically comes down to what you can get away with.

The parties in authority frequently act with impunity towards their own (legislated) responsibilities, and you are somewhat impotent to get the system to change, or to influence what is happening.

The parties who occupy positions of power in Canberra are generally a protected species, and there can be severe consequences for challenging the status quo of an entrenched minority.

Do not think for one minute that the so called “proper avenues” for complaint will achieve anything. The main role of (say) professional organisations (eg law, medicine etc) is to protect their positions of privilege, not to listen or take seriously a “whinge” from someone with no little or no support base.

Sad but true.

Take care.

#19
Spam Box12:53 pm, 07 May 09

I’d suggest you contact ADACAS (Disability Advocate) = 62425060.

#20
BerraBoy6812:55 pm, 07 May 09

I urge you to contact Steve Doszpot (shadow Miniser for Disability Services). He’s done a lot for people behind the scenes.

if you can’t contact him directly e-mail me at berraboy68 at gmail dot com

#21
housebound1:51 pm, 07 May 09

After reading all this I have to wonder what country we live in – where state employees can vindictively ruin people’s livces with no means of accountability; and the rule of law is no protection.

Communist Russia or China spring to mind, or perhaps medieval England where the king and his minions could do what they liked to the peasants.

Sensibly, try the Human Rights Commissioner and the Community Advocate. The Advocate has had great success on this type of issue, and the ‘complaining’ mechanism is less loaded against you.

#22
weeziepops2:56 pm, 07 May 09

There is a Disability and Community Services Commissioner in the ACT Human Rights Commission – P 6205 2222.

If you have a complaint about the performance/behaviour of a particular public servant, I would consider taking it to the public service commission.

But, as others have said, nothing will happen. You may, however, feel a bit better after having a say and at least making things a bit awkward for this person.

#23
ant3:10 pm, 07 May 09

There’s some interesting info on this thread, and I hope people are taking note of the contributors who clearly have some experience. People often think that they have lots of bright, shiny Rights which are easily upheld, and a nice government man on a white horse will run in and fix everything.

The reality is more like what RayP and Co. have outlined. Listen to what they say and advise.

#24
colourful sydney rac3:12 pm, 07 May 09

housebound said :

After reading all this I have to wonder what country we live in – where state employees can vindictively ruin people’s livces with no means of accountability; and the rule of law is no protection.

Communist Russia or China spring to mind, or perhaps medieval England where the king and his minions could do what they liked to the peasants.

Sensibly, try the Human Rights Commissioner and the Community Advocate. The Advocate has had great success on this type of issue, and the ‘complaining’ mechanism is less loaded against you.

Who had their life ruined by the state? Other than Crazy Chester of course.

#25
sunshine6:52 pm, 07 May 09

could try giving ADACAS (ACT Disability Aged and carers advocacy service) a call

#26
taninaus6:59 pm, 07 May 09

weeziepops said :

If you have a complaint about the performance/behaviour of a particular public servant, I would consider taking it to the public service commission.

sorry weezie this is ACT Government being talked about there is no public service commission. there is a commissioner but she will likely direct the person elsewhere.

the suggestions about the human rights commission are good – this person is new and probably motivated to do some good work. unfortunately though there may not be a huge change as I think the government vet the providers for price and service. But this is definitely against the rhetoric and what was being aimed for with the new arrangements being put in place. One other option is the disability adisory council. I am not sure who is on it but a group like adacas should know – some of the players are quite powerful.

If the person your friends are dealing with is lower than the Executive Director, then try approaching her, if this is where the concern is then the Departmental Chief Executive or external may be your best bet.

#27
bd8410:41 pm, 07 May 09

“The problem is, while they want their kids to use some particulr services, the big wig at Disability ACT has decided that they will be told where their children can and can’t go.”

I somehow don’t think we’re getting the complete story here. From my understanding there are different services that are available for the children with the disability and each is provided funding based on the individual needs of the child for a certain number of hours or days care. Each of these services would have a certain number of spaces available based on staff availability etc. If this is the case I would suggest the “big wig” may be telling these mothers that some of the services are full and they cannot have any activity they want, despite their protests that they don’t want their children to do some of them. The insinuation of “losing the funding” may therefore be a comment that if the parent does not place their child into an available service, they will lose/forfeit that funding and it will be re-allocated to another child on the waiting list. I’m fairly certain that there will be people on waiting lists because there isn’t enough funding to go around in the first place.

In which case the position of Disability ACT would be understandable. The main issue would be that the Government doesn’t provide enough funding for every person with a disability to access the services and the service they want everytime.

#28
Felix the Cat10:46 pm, 07 May 09

Today Tonight or A Current Affair

#29
sexynotsmart11:43 pm, 07 May 09

How does one complain about serial pains-in-the-arse?

This sort of troll posting verges on defamation. Seriously, there ought to be a facility to declare abusers of public services something akin to “vexatious litigants”.

Sincerely, I hope your “friend” gets what you want for “them”. We’ve all had unpleasant run-ins with bureaucrats – my biggie was when trying to secure a nursing home place for my senile grandfather.

You mention you’ve has already gone to the relevant minister, and know about the Ombudsman, so it sounds like you already have a working knowledge of administrative review processes.

Slagging off someone in public where you know they can’t respond due to privacy constraints? That’s pretty low.

#30
tortfeaser12:30 am, 08 May 09

Does the ACT have the equivalent of the AAT? If so, I’d go there.

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