If the NSW Ombudsman comes to your Council to ask you questions, look out...

We have much more experience with the ICAC in the way it does business than the NSW Ombudsman. If either are investigating at your Council you need advice, and no more so in the last couple of weeks when the NSW Ombudsman took an interest in a 2015 DA at one council and started asking some questions.

And not just asking questions where employees could have the opportunity of responding in writing, but talking up their power to require interviews and employees providing “oral” evidence. In documents to members they cited their powers under section 18 of the Ombudsman Act to interview and require “oral” evidence.

Members sought our advice and what do you know, when you look at section 18, there is no reference to “oral” evidence at all. All that section 18 refers to is the ability to require the provision of documents. Another valuable lesson in checking whether what is said to be a power, is in fact a power.

And in a happy development, both for the employees concerned and the Council, in response to our resistance the Ombudsman’s office agreed that while they do have advice that they can require oral evidence, if the employees concerned would prefer to do it in writing, they can...

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