Report on oversight of Ombudsman's use of coercive power

On 21 March, the Victorian Inspectorate tabled a special report in response to comments made by Victorian Ombudsman, Deborah Glass, to a parliamentary committee last year.

At a hearing of the Integrity and Oversight Committee in August 2023, Ms Glass raised concerns about the value the Victorian Inspectorate provides in response to reviewing notifications of coercive powers exercised by the Victorian Ombudsman. By law, the Victorian Ombudsman must notify the Inspectorate each time they exercise a coercive power.

After receiving further information from the Victorian Ombudsman about her concerns, the committee recommended that the Victorian government review the effectiveness and efficiency of the current mandatory notifications scheme. Legislation requires that government provide a response to the committee’s recommendation by the end of May 2024.

The Victorian Inspectorate’s report, ‘A compliance case study on the use and oversight of coercive powers’ is a comprehensive evidence-based report that demonstrates the types of serious and systemic compliance and other issues it identified as well as significant improvements that have been made, and committed to, by the Victorian Ombudsman as a result of feedback and suggestions from the Inspectorate.

By tabling this special report, the Victorian Inspectorate aims to address the Ombudsman’s public comments about the value of the Inspectorate’s oversight and help inform debate around the current mandatory notification scheme. The report also raises awareness of the standards expected in the exercise of coercive powers.

To ensure the Victorian Ombudsman commits to improving quality assurance and compliance, the Victorian Inspectorate recommends that the Victorian Ombudsman complete by 31 March 2025 a review of its quality assurance framework and resources for supporting compliance when exercising coercive powers. This should be aimed at ensuring the Victorian Ombudsman allocates sufficient resources to support proactive and effective quality assurance, training and policy, and with a view to increasing the Victorian Ombudsman’s capacity to comply with its legislative obligations.