Protecting the public interest: Queensland Ombudsman
Our operations are subject to regular scrutiny from external oversight bodies. The Queensland Ombudsman, being accountable to Parliament rather than the government of the day, plays a pivotal role in public agencies making fair and accountable decisions – a key element of open and transparent public administration. The Ombudsman has powers and authorities outlined within the Ombudsman Act 2001 to investigate administrative actions of agencies and improve quality of decision making and administrative practice in agencies. The Ombudsman also has oversight of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010.
The department ensures the Director-General's responsibilities under both the Ombudsman Act 2001 and the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 are executed diligently to ensure the department’s administrative processes are of a high standard and open to scrutiny. The department will conduct an assessment of all incoming corruption or serious misconduct complaints to determine whether the complainant is a Public Interest Discloser (PID) as per the criteria outlined in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010. The PID will then be supported throughout the process and protected from any reprisal action that may be taken against them.
Transparency and the right to information
The department continues to be committed to providing the community with open and transparent access to information about our services and activities, including under our statutory obligations under the Right to Information Act 2009 (the RTI Act) and the Information Privacy Act 2009 (the IP Act).
The department’s website contains various publications and pages detailing services and business operations. Applications for documents not containing an applicant’s personal information are processed under the RTI Act, and requests for documents for an applicant’s personal information being processed under the IP Act.
Details on how to make a formal application requesting access to documents under the RTI Act or the IP Act are available on our website.
In 2019–20, 700 applications were received under the RTI and IP Acts. 704 were finalised (including applications that were on hand at the end of 2018–19). Details of the applications received under the RTI Act are published on the department’s disclosure log. Where possible, released documents are also published.
The department is committed to ensuring we act and make decisions compatibly with the Human Rights Act 2019 (the Act). It has undertaken a full review of the legislation it administers and updated key policies, including the external customer Complaints Management Policy and Managing Employee Complaints Policy. The department reviewed their briefing process to ensure that when making recommendations, how will decisions may impact upon an individual's human rights. If human rights were to be engaged or impacted by a decision, a description of the nature and impact and any compatibility issues are outlined for consideration or noting.
Since 1 January 2020, the department has managed 121 human rights complaints from customers and one complaint from an employee. Of these 122 complaints, 52 complaints were determined to be substantiated, involving actions or decisions which were incompatible with the Act. These complaints offered an opportunity for the department to engage in informed discussions and improve decision making.
To ensure respect for human rights was embedded in departmental culture and to build workforce capability, a Human Rights Implementation Governance Committee was established and developed a dedicated Human Rights Act SharePoint site. An extensive multi-channel awareness and educational campaign was delivered, which included sharing case studies and animations based on real customer complaints. As at 30 June 2020, 7254 staff have completed the mandatory online eBrief course, The Human Rights Act 2019 and 336 employees have participated in internal human rights complaints training workshops.
During COVID-19, the department played an important role in the government’s efforts to protect Queenslanders. From a human rights perspective, the department took action and made decisions which supported the government’s positive obligations to protect the right to life, under section 16 of the Act. When Queenslanders were directed to undertake social distancing and restrict movement, many licensing requirements which would normally be able to be complied with, were difficult or impossible to meet. This particularly impacted vulnerable, older Queenslanders required to obtain or renew their medical certificate in order to comply with the obligation to carry a medical certificate while driving. The department delivered the Transport Legislation (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020 which allowed drivers aged 75 and over to either extend their current medical certificate for up to six months, or in some cases, provided an exemption to enable certain customers to drive without holding a valid medical certificate during COVID–19.
The department acted flexibly and delivered the COVID-Safe Public Transport Plan to ensure public transport services could continue safely in line with social distancing requirements. All bus, train, ferry and tram transport services continued to operate as scheduled during the period of restricted travel. This provided customers, particularly vital essential workers, with access to full services and assisted with maintaining safe social distancing practices. Customers were also provided with options to board from both the front and rear of buses.
The open data program continued to mature during 2019–20. The department is one of the largest contributors to the Queensland Government’s open data portal, with a collection of 270 published datasets in 2019–20, up from 263 in 2018–19. Datasets empower Queenslanders to make informed decisions about how and when they travel and enable business partners and industry to help deliver better traffic and transport services for the community.
View the department's open datasets.
In addition to the audit of the department's financial statements, during 2019–20, the Auditor-General conducted audits where recommendations were either specifically addressed to the department, were for agencies to consider, or included learnings potentially applicable to the department.
These areas included:
- Report 5: 2018–19 Results of financial audits
- Report 14: Evaluating major infrastructure projects.
Read more about the Queensland Audit Office.
Coronial inquests and recommendations
Under the whole-of-government coronial reporting arrangements, Ministers are required to inform the Attorney-General within six months of coronial findings being handed down as to whether the recommendations are supported. Ministers must also provide progress updates every six months until the recommendation is implemented.
The department is pleased to report that no new recommendations were directed toward the department in the 2019–20 financial year.
Read more about findings in the coroners court.
Crime and Corruption Commission reports
The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) is a statutory oversight body accountable to the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee, set up to combat and reduce the incidence of major crime and corruption in the public sector. Its functions and powers are set out in the Crime and Corruption Act 2001.
The department maintains a robust investigative capacity which underpins a holistic approach to ethical culture, as outlined in the department's Integrity framework. The effectiveness of the department's integrity measures was examined by the CCC during the financial year under Operation Impala.
The department offers systemic protection of personal information for vulnerable people including victims of domestic and family violence through the ‘customer records suppression service’. The CCC notes that the department has one of the most progressive systems in relation to providing additional security and protection to vulnerable persons with the Customer Records Suppression Service.
Parliamentary committees review legislation, investigate specific issues, and report to the Parliament. Some committees also have continuing roles to monitor and review public sector organisations or keep areas of the law or activity under review. The committee which relates to the department's portfolio is the Transport and Public Works Committee. In relation to its areas of responsibility, the committee:
- examines Bills to consider the policy to be enacted
- examines the budget estimates of each department
- examines Bills for the application of the fundamental legislative principles set out in section 4 of the Legislative Standards Act 1992
- considers the lawfulness of subordinate legislation
- assesses the public accounts of each department in relation to the integrity, economy, efficiency and effectiveness of financial management by:
- examining government financial documents
- considering the annual and other reports of the Auditor-General.
- considers departments' public works in light of matters including the:
- suitability of the works for the purpose
- necessity for the works
- value for money of the works
- revenue produced by, and recurrent costs of, the works, or estimates of revenue and costs
- present and prospective public value of the works
- procurement methods used for the works
- actual suitability of the works in meeting the needs of and achieving the stated purpose of the works.
The committee may initiate an inquiry into any matter it considers appropriate within its portfolio area.
The committee must investigate any issue referred to it by the Legislative Assembly or under an Act, whether or not the issue is within the committee's area of responsibility. The committee either conducted or commenced the following parliamentary inquiries relating to the department's portfolio in 2019–20:
- inquiry into Motor Recreational Activities
- inquiry into Transport Technology
- review of the Transport and Other Legislation (Road Safety, Technology and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2020
- review of the Transport Legislation (Disability Parking and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2019
- review of the Transport Legislation (Disability Parking Permit Scheme) Amendment Bill 2019 (Private Members Bill)
- inquiry into a sustainable Queensland intrastate shipping industry.