ApproachContact with our Office about a matter. An approach may be about a matter outside our jurisdiction.
Assessment (of reports of abuse)Reports of serious abuse within the Australian Defence Force (Defence) are assessed by our Office, to determine whether it falls within the Defence Force Ombudsman's jurisdiction as outlined in the Ombudsman Regulations 2017.
Authorised officerAn officer appointed by the Principal Officer of an agency to receive and allocate public interest disclosures.
CategoryApproaches to our Office are divided into five categories: see below.
Category 1 Initial approach (approach)An approach that can be resolved simply, including by referral to a more appropriate agency. Also where we used our discretion not to investigate.
Category 2–Further assessment (approach)An approach which calls for further assessment. This might include enquiries/research, but in which we are either not authorised to, or applied our discretion not to, investigate.
Category 3–Investigation (complaint)An approach investigated and resolved after a single contact with the agency.
Category 4– Further investigation (complaint)An approach that was resolved after two or more substantive contacts with the agency.
Category 5–Formal reports (complaint)An approach where formal powers have been exercised and/or a s 15 report issued.
Closed approachAn approach that has been finalised.
Community detentionA form of immigration detention that enables people in detention to reside and move about freely in the community without having to be accompanied or restrained by an officer under the Migration Act 1958.
Compensation for Detriment caused by Defective Administration (CDDA)A scheme that allows Australian Government agencies under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 to provide discretionary compensation to people who have been adversely affected through an agency's defective actions or inaction.
Controlled operationA covert operation carried out by law enforcement officers under the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) for the purpose of obtaining evidence that may lead to a prosecution of a person for a serious offence. The operation may involve law enforcement officers engaging in conduct that would otherwise constitute an offence.
Decision to investigateThe Ombudsman may investigate the administrative actions of most Australian Government departments and agencies, and private contractors delivering government services and industries that we oversight. The Ombudsman can decide to not investigate complaints that are 'stale' or frivolous, where the complainant has not first sought redress from the agency, where some other form of review or appeal is more appropriate or where he/she considers that an investigation would not be warranted in all the circumstances.
Finalised complaintA complaint that has been resolved, or in which investigation has ceased, or where there is no resolution or investigation because in all the circumstances no meaningful remedy is likely.
GarnisheeSome government agencies such as the Department of Human Services – Child Support have the power to seize money from a third party (such as a bank) to pay a debt. To seize this money is to 'garnishee' it.
General treatment policyPrivate health insurance that covers non-hospital medical services that are not covered by Medicare, such as dental, physiotherapy, and ambulance services. Also known as 'extras' or 'ancillary' cover.
Hospital policyPrivate health insurance that covers costs incurred by a private patient in hospital.
Hospital exclusions and restrictionsAn exclusion is a treatment or service which is not covered by a hospital insurance policy. A restriction is a treatment or service which is covered to a limited extent, such as covering the cost of admission as a private patient in a shared room in a public hospital, rather than the cost of a private room.
Informed Financial Consent (IFC)The provision of information to patients, including notification of likely out-of-pocket expenses (gap fees) by all relevant service providers, preferably in writing, prior to admission to hospital.
Income managementA scheme that enables the Department of Human Services – Centrelink to retain and manage at least 50 per cent of a person's income support payments. The funds so managed may only be allocated to priority goods and services, such as housing, clothing, food, utilities, education and health care. Managed funds cannot be used to purchase alcohol, gambling products, tobacco or pornography.
Independent Merits ReviewThese are conducted by reviewers appointed by the Minister for Immigration. They are experienced decision-makers, most whom have a background in merits review decision making in federal and state administrative tribunals, such as the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Under the Ombudsman Act 1976, the Commonwealth Ombudsman may investigate the administrative actions of most Australian Government agencies and offices, Australia Post and registered private postal operators, private registered education providers in relation to overseas students, former and current VET Student loan scheme providers and private health funds or health care providers in relation to private health insurance.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman also undertakes the role of the ACT Ombudsman in accordance with s 28 of the ACT Self-Government (Consequential Provisions) Act 1988 (Cth).

Lifetime Health Cover (LHC)A government initiative that determines how much consumers pay for private hospital insurance, based primarily on their age. The Lifetime Health Cover rules are contained in the Private Health Insurance Act 2007 (Cth).
Medical gapThe amount a private patient pays personally for medical treatment in hospital, over and above what is received from Medicare or a private health insurer. Health insurers may have gap cover arrangements with service providers to insure against some or all of these additional payments.
Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS)A listing of the Medicare services subsidised by the Australian government. It includes a schedule of fees.
Medicare Levy SurchargeAn income tax levy that applies to Australian taxpayers who earn above a certain income threshold and who do not hold appropriate private hospital insurance.
MetadataInformation about a communication which does not include its content. In the example of a phone call, metadata may include the phone numbers of the two parties to the conversation, the duration, date and time of that phone call but not what was said.
Natural justiceIn administrative decision-making, natural justice means procedural fairness. This includes the right to a fair hearing, that decisions are made without undue bias, providing a person to present a case addressing any adverse matters and providing reasons for decisions.
Non-refoulementThe principle that people seeking asylum may not be returned to a place where they fear harm, including persecution.
Out of jurisdiction (OOJ)A matter about which the Office has no legal power under the Ombudsman Act 1976 to investigate.
Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)A type of health cover designed for overseas student visa holders which can be purchased from some Australian private health insurers.
Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC)A type of health cover designed for people without Medicare benefits or with only reciprocal (partial) Medicare benefits which can be purchased from some Australian private health insurers and some international insurers.
Own motion investigationAn investigation conducted on the Ombudsman's own initiative.
Principal officerThe head of an agency.
Private Health Insurance RebateThe Australian Government provides an income tested rebate to help people meet the cost of private health insurance. The Rebate is income-tested and varies depending on age group and family composition.
Public interest disclosureUnless otherwise stated, this relates to an internal disclosure of wrongdoing, which has been reported by a public official to an authorised internal recipient.
Reasonable likelihoodReasonable likelihood is the standard which applies to our assessments of reports of abuse. It is below the civil standard of proof ('on the balance of probabilities'). It involves the concept that reasonable inquiries have been made to form the belief.
Redress of Grievance (ROG)Members of the Australian Defence Force are encouraged to seek resolution of any complaint at the lowest possible level in the chain of command. Members who are not satisfied with the outcome of the normal administrative processes may seek review through a formal Redress of Grievance submission to their commanding officer.
Report of AbuseContact with our Office disclosing an experience of serious abuse within Defence.
Review rightsPeople who disagree with a decision made about them or who believe they have been treated unfairly by a government agency may appeal against the decision or ask for it to be reviewed by the agency. If the person is not satisfied with this process he or she may complain to the Ombudsman (provided the complaint is within our jurisdiction), noting the Ombudsman does not have the power to change or remake a decision.
Serious abuse'Serious abuse' (within Defence) is defined as sexual abuse, serious physical abuse and serious bullying and harassment. All reports of abuse are assessed to determine whether the reported abuse meets this definition.
Stored communicationsThis typically refers to emails and text (SMS) messages, but may also include images or videos, that have been electronically stored by a telecommunications carrier or internet service provider. For instance, an SMS message is stored by a carrier and sent when the intended recipient is able to receive it. Stored communications access occurs under warrant for the purposes of obtaining information relevant to the investigation of an offence.
Surveillance devicesThese are typically listening devices, cameras and tracking devices. The use of these devices will, in most circumstances, require the issue of a warrant.
Telecommunications interceptionsThe recording of telephone conversations or other transmissions passing over a telecommunications network. Interceptions occur under warrant for the purposes of obtaining information relevant to a criminal investigation.
The OfficeThe Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
The OmbudsmanThe person occupying the statutory position of Commonwealth Ombudsman.
Unlawful non-citizenA national of another country who does not have the right to be in Australia. The majority of unlawful non-citizens in Australia at any given time have either overstayed their visa or had their visa cancelled. Some unlawful non-citizens will have entered Australia without a visa.
Waiting periodHow long a person needs to be covered under a private health insurance policy before he or she is eligible for benefits. The maximum waiting periods for hospital policies are set down in the Private Health Insurance Act 2007 (Cth).
Warm transferAn arrangement between the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman (the Office) and some government agencies, such as the Department of Human Services – Centrelink whereby the Office will forward the details of a complaint to Centrelink to enable it to investigate it in the first instance. This arrangement is used most commonly in situations that are urgent or which seem simple, or where we think there are good reasons why the complainant should not be required to make a direct complaint to the agency.
Within jurisdictionAn approach about a matter that the Office may investigate under the Ombudsman Act 1976.

List of tables and figures

List of tables

  • Table 1 – Office's key performance indicators, targets and results
  • Table 2 – DHS Complaints
  • Table 3 – Remedies achieved for complainants
  • Table 4 – Immigration detention facility inspections
  • Table 5 – Oversight activities in 2017–18
  • Table 6 – Average number of authorised officers
  • Table 7 – Claims of reprisal
  • Table 8 – Complaints received and finalised 2017–18
  • Table 9 – Complaints received and investigations commenced and finalised
  • Table 10 – Complaints transferred to other complaint bodies
  • Table 11 – Complaints or disputes about registered private health insurers
  • Table 12 – Complaint issues
  • Table 13 – Number of complaints about insurers, hospitals, health practitioners and brokers
  • Table 14 – Overseas Visitors Health Cover complaints
  • Table 15 – Client survey for private health insurance complaints
  • Table 16 – Audit Committee membership during the reporting period
  • Table 17 – Workforce Profile as at 30 June 2017 and 30 June 2018
  • Table 18 – Remuneration by classification as at 30 June 2018
  • Table 19 – Expenditure on consultancy contracts
  • Table 20 – Number of disclosures received and alleged disclosable conduct
  • Table 21 – Agencies that have reported not receiving PIDs in 2017–18
  • Table 22 – PID investigations completed and action/s taken in response to recommendations

List of figures

  • Figure 1 – Executive and Senior Management structure at 30 June 2018
  • Figure 2 – How approaches were received by the Office
  • Figure 3 – Complaint issues
  • Figure 4 – NDIA complaints received
  • Figure 5 – NDIA complaint issues 2017–18
  • Figure 6 – Breakdown of immigration complaints closed in 2017–18
  • Figure 7 – The independent oversight process
  • Figure 8 – 2017–18 Disclosures at a glance
  • Figure 9 – 2017–18 Allegations of disclosable conduct
  • Figure 10 – 2017–18 Findings of disclosable conduct
  • Figure 11 – 2017–18 Referrals to other investigative mechanisms
  • Figure 12 – Who disclosures were made by
  • Figure 13 – Comparison of training opportunities
  • Figure 14 – Investigation timeframes
  • Figure 15 – The three core themes delivered at the Authorised Officers forums
  • Figure 16 – Postal Industry complaint numbers
  • Figure 17 – PIO complaint issues in 2017–18
  • Figure 18 – Complaints received by year
  • Figure 19 – How complaint issues were finalised in 2017–18
  • Figure 20 – VET Student Loans and VET FEE-HELP closed complaints and top issues for 2017–18
  • Figure 21 – Total complaints and enquiries by year

List of requirements

PGPA Rule ReferencePart of ReportDescriptionRequirementPage of this report
17AD(g)Letter of transmittal  
17AI A copy of the letter of transmittal signed and dated by accountable authority on date final text approved, with statement that the report has been prepared in accordance with section 46 of the Act and any enabling legislation that specifies additional requirements in relation to the annual report.Mandatoryv
17AD(h)Aids to access  
17AJ(a) Table of contents.Mandatoryviii-ix
17AJ(b)Section 7Alphabetical index.Mandatory203–213
17AJ(c)Section 7Glossary of abbreviations and acronyms.Mandatory186–91
17AJ(d)Section 7List of requirements.Mandatory194–202
17AJ(e) Details of contact officer.Mandatoryvii
17AJ(f) Entity's website address.Mandatoryvii
17AJ(g) Electronic address of report.Mandatoryvii
17AD(a)Review by accountable authority  
17AD(a)Section 1A review by the accountable authority of the entity.Mandatory2–4
17AD(b)Overview of the entity
17AE(1)(a)(i)Section 2A description of the role and functions of the entity.Mandatory8
17AE(1)(a)(ii)Section 2A description of the organisational structure of the entity.Mandatory10
17AE(1)(a)(iii)Section 2A description of the outcomes and programmes administered by the entity.Mandatory8–9
17AE(1)(a)(iv)Section 2A description of the purposes of the entity as included in corporate plan.Mandatory8
17AE(1)(b) An outline of the structure of the portfolio of the entity.Portfolio departments MandatoryN/A
17AE(2) Where the outcomes and programs administered by the entity differ from any Portfolio Budget Statement, Portfolio Additional Estimates Statement or other portfolio estimates statement that was prepared for the entity for the period, include details of variation and reasons for change.If applicable, MandatoryNil to report
17AD(c)Report on the Performance of the entity  
 Annual performance Statements  
17AD(c)(i); 16FSection 6Annual performance statement in accordance with paragraph 39(1)(b) of the Act and section 16F of the Rule.Mandatory145–64
17AD(c)(ii)Report on Financial Performance
17AF(1)(a)Section 3A discussion and analysis of the entity's financial performance.Mandatory20–21
17AF(1)(b)Section 6A table summarising the total resources and total payments of the entity.Mandatory166
17AF(2) If there may be significant changes in the financial results during or after the previous or current reporting period, information on those changes, including: the cause of any operating loss of the entity; how the entity has responded to the loss and the actions that have been taken in relation to the loss; and any matter or circumstances that it can reasonably be anticipated will have a significant impact on the entity's future operation or financial results.If applicable, Mandatory.Nil to report
17AD(d)Management and Accountability
 Corporate Governance
17AG(2)(a)Section 5Information on compliance with section 10 (fraud systems)Mandatory113
17AG(2)(b)(i) A certification by accountable authority that fraud risk assessments and fraud control plans have been prepared.Mandatoryv
17AG(2)(b)(ii) A certification by accountable authority that appropriate mechanisms for preventing, detecting incidents of, investigating or otherwise dealing with, and recording or reporting fraud that meet the specific needs of the entity are in place.Mandatoryv
17AG(2)(b)(iii) A certification by accountable authority that all reasonable measures have been taken to deal appropriately with fraud relating to the entity.Mandatoryv
17AG(2)(c)Section 5An outline of structures and processes in place for the entity to implement principles and objectives of corporate governance.Mandatory104–8
17AG(2)(d) – (e) A statement of significant issues reported to Minister under paragraph 19(1)(e) of the Act that relates to noncompliance with Finance law and action taken to remedy noncompliance.If applicable, MandatoryNil to report
 External Scrutiny
17AG(3)Section 5Information on the most significant developments in external scrutiny and the entity's response to the scrutiny.Mandatory108
17AG(3)(a)Section 5Information on judicial decisions and decisions of administrative tribunals and by the Australian Information Commissioner that may have a significant effect on the operations of the entity.If applicable, Mandatory108
17AG(3)(b) Information on any reports on operations of the entity by the AuditorGeneral (other than report under section 43 of the Act), a Parliamentary Committee, or the Commonwealth Ombudsman.If applicable, MandatoryN/A
17AG(3)(c) Information on any capability reviews on the entity that were released during the period.If applicable, MandatoryNil to report
 Management of Human Resources
17AG(4)(a)Section 5An assessment of the entity's effectiveness in managing and developing employees to achieve entity objectives.Mandatory108–12
17AG(4)(b)Section 5Statistics on the entity's APS employees on an ongoing and nonongoing basis; including the following:
  • Statistics on staffing classification level;
  • Statistics on fulltime employees;
  • Statistics on parttime employees;
  • Statistics on gender;
  • Statistics on staff location;
  • Statistics on employees who identify as Indigenous.
17AG(4)(c)Section 5Information on any enterprise agreements, individual flexibility arrangements, Australian workplace agreements, common law contracts and determinations under subsection 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999.Mandatory110
17AG(4)(c)(i)Section 5Information on the number of SES and nonSES employees covered by agreements etc identified in paragraph 17AG(4)(c).Mandatory110
17AG(4)(c)(ii)Section 5The salary ranges available for APS employees by classification level.Mandatory112
17AG(4)(c)(iii)Section 5A description of nonsalary benefits provided to employees.Mandatory110
17AG(4)(d)(i) Information on the number of employees at each classification level who received performance pay.If applicable, MandatoryNil to report
17AG(4)(d)(ii) Information on aggregate amounts of performance pay at each classification level.If applicable, MandatoryNil to report
17AG(4)(d)(iii) Information on the average amount of performance payment, and range of such payments, at each classification level.If applicable, MandatoryNil to report
17AG(4)(d)(iv) Information on aggregate amount of performance payments.If applicable, MandatoryNil to report
 Assets Management  
17AG(5)Section 5An assessment of effectiveness of assets management where asset management is a significant part of the entity's activitiesIf applicable, Mandatory113
17AG(6)Section 5An assessment of entity performance against the Commonwealth Procurement Rules.Mandatory112–13
17AG(7)(a)Section 5A summary statement detailing the number of new contracts engaging consultants entered into during the period; the total actual expenditure on all new consultancy contracts entered into during the period (inclusive of GST); the number of ongoing consultancy contracts that were entered into during a previous reporting period; and the total actual expenditure in the reporting year on the ongoing consultancy contracts (inclusive of GST).Mandatory113
17AG(7)(b)Section 5A statement that "During 2017–18, 16 new consultancy contracts were entered into involving total actual expenditure of $0.413 million. In addition, one ongoing consultancy contracts were active during the period, involving total actual expenditure of $0.062 million".Mandatory113
17AG(7)(c)Section 5A summary of the policies and procedures for selecting and engaging consultants and the main categories of purposes for which consultants were selected and engaged.Mandatory113
17AG(7)(d)Section 5A statement that "Annual reports contain information about actual expenditure on contracts for consultancies. Information on the value of contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website."Mandatory113
 Australian National Audit Office Access Clauses  
17AG(8) If an entity entered into a contract with a value of more than $100 000 (inclusive of GST) and the contract did not provide the AuditorGeneral with access to the contractor's premises, the report must include the name of the contractor, purpose and value of the contract, and the reason why a clause allowing access was not included in the contract.If applicable, MandatoryN/A
 Exempt contracts  
17AG(9) If an entity entered into a contract or there is a standing offer with a value greater than $10 000 (inclusive of GST) which has been exempted from being published in AusTender because it would disclose exempt matters under the FOI Act, the annual report must include a statement that the contract or standing offer has been exempted, and the value of the contract or standing offer, to the extent that doing so does not disclose the exempt matters.If applicable, MandatoryN/A
 Small business  
17AG(10)(a)Section 5A statement that "the Office supports small business participation in the Commonwealth Government procurement market. Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and Small Enterprise participation statistics are available on the Department of Finance's website."Mandatory112
17AG(10)(b)Section 5An outline of the ways in which the procurement practices of the entity support small and medium enterprises.Mandatory112
17AG(10)(c) If the entity is considered by the Department administered by the Finance Minister as material in nature–a statement that "[Name of entity] recognises the importance of ensuring that small businesses are paid on time. The results of the Survey of Australian Government Payments to Small Business are available on the Treasury's website."If applicable, MandatoryN/A
 Financial Statements  
17AD(e)Section 6Inclusion of the annual financial statements in accordance with subsection 43(4) of the Act.Mandatory119–44
17AD(f)Other Mandatory Information 
17AH(1)(a)(i) If the entity conducted advertising campaigns, a statement that "During [reporting period], the [name of entity] conducted the following advertising campaigns: [name of advertising campaigns undertaken]. Further information on those advertising campaigns is available at [address of entity's website] and in the reports on Australian Government advertising prepared by the Department of Finance. Those reports are available on the Department of Finance's website."If applicable, MandatoryN/A
17AH(1)(a)(ii)Section 5If the entity did not conduct advertising campaigns, a statement to that effect.If applicable, Mandatory113
17AH(1)(b) A statement that "Information on grants awarded by [name of entity] during [reporting period] is available at [address of entity's website]."If applicable, MandatoryN/A
17AH(1)(c)Section 5Outline of mechanisms of disability reporting, including reference to website for further information.Mandatory112
17AH(1)(d)Section 6Website reference to where the entity's Information Publication Scheme statement pursuant to Part II of FOI Actcan be found.Mandatory165
17AH(1)(e)Section 6Correction of material errors in previous annual reportIf applicable, Mandatory168
17AH(2)Sections 4, 5, 6Information required by other legislationMandatory63–73, 81, 79, 169–183