Sunday, May 14, 2006

Time Travel

The 1974 Local Government Act gives the Ombudsmen the discretionary power to terminate an investigation at any time.

LG ACT 1974, PART III Section 26 (10) In determining whether to initiate, continue or discontinue an investigation, a Local Commissioner shall, subject to the preceding provisions of this section, act at discretion; and any question whether a complaint is duly made under this Part of this Act shall be determined by the Local Commissioner.

Should the Ombudsman conduct an investigation the Act also states they should produce a report.

LG ACT 1974, PART III Section 30 (1) In any case where a Local Commissioner conducts an investigation, or decides not to conduct an investigation, he shall send a report of the results of the investigation, or as the case may be a statement of his reasons for not conducting an investigation-

If in the opinion of the Ombudsman injustice has been caused in the consequence of maladministration the report shall be laid before the authority.

LG ACT 1974, PART III Section 31 (1) (1) If in the opinion of the Local Commissioner, as set out in the report, injustice has been caused to the person aggrieved in consequence of maladministration, the report shall be laid before the authority concerned, and it shall be the duty of that authority to consider the report, and to notify the Local Commissioner of the action which the authority have taken, or propose to take.

However, the Ombudsmen often go back in time to deviously extend their statutory powers.

Once it has been decided that injustice has been caused by maladministration the investigation is over. The Ombudsman should send a report of the results of the investigation (Section 30 (1) and the report should be laid before the authority concerned Section 31 (1).

However, in the magical world of the Local Government Ombudsman anything is possible. As soon as they identify that injustice has been caused because of maladministration they immediately energise their time travel machine. Firstly they use the words ‘administrative fault’ as a euphemism for maladministration. Then if the authority concerned decide they want the finding of maladministration buried by their ex colleagues they offer to ‘locally settle’ the case.

When that happens the Ombudsmen immediately travel back in time and terminate the investigation using the discretionary power conferred to them under Section 26 (10). Then they issue a report stating that they have used their discretionary powers to terminate the investigation because the authority has offered a ‘local Settlement’. As a result the authorities maladministration continues to be called 'administrative fault' and the truth is buried forever as a 'local settlement'.

Surely the investigation ended when they found ‘administrative fault’ otherwise the Ombudsman would be guilty of reaching a premature conclusion. So two questions remain, how do they terminate something that has already ended and why would the authority want to settle unless the Ombudsman found maladministration?

Should the authority refuse to settle the case the Ombudsmen switch off the time travel machine and call the ‘administrative fault’ they found by its true name, maladministration. Then they issue a report and lay it before the authority concerned.

It is obvious that Local Government Ombudsmen are using this devious time travel tactic to extend their statutory powers so they could introduce ‘local settlements’. The 1974 Local Government Act only gives the Ombudsmen the statutory power to investigate cases it does not give them any express or implied powers to introduce, let alone accept, 'local settlements' as a means of terminating an investigation.

'Local Settlements' should not be confused with normal settlements. 'Local settlements' do not need the agreement of the complainant that normal settlements would. The Ombudsman agree the local settlement with the council, something they would not be able to do with a normal settlement.

Local Settlements will be the subject of a separate posting.

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