Holding decision-makers to account
Decision-makers sometimes make mistakes.
There are a number of options available to the public to help ensure due process is observed and decision-makers are held accountable for their actions.
The Australian Auditor-General provides an independent assessment of Australian government entities, and is supported by the Australian National Audit Office.
Audits involve the independent and objective assessment of the administration of an entity or body’s programs, policies, projects or activities. They also examine how well administrative support systems operate.
Members of the public can contribute information for consideration by the Australian National Audit Office when it is conducting performance audits.
For more information, visit the Australian National Audit Office website.
Complaints about the ongoing failure of a Government Department to carry out its responsibilities in an economically efficient and effective manner can be referred to the NSW Auditor-General. The Auditor-General can audit a government to see how the department is operating, and can report to Parliament.
For more information, visit the Audit Office of NSW website.
Independent Commission Against Corruption
There is no national commission against corruption. However, the Attorney-General’s Department is working on a National Anti-Corruption Plan.
Concerns about corrupt conduct in NSW should be made to, and are investigated by, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Any person can make a complaint to ICAC.
Public officials who make a complaint to ICAC (known as whistle blowers) are protected from reprisals and other retaliatory actions, under the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994.
ICAC is an independent statutory body, which means it is not subject to the direction of politicians or government officials. ICAC aims to:
- investigate, expose and prevent corruption involving public authorities (including local councils) and public officials; and
- educate public authorities, public officials and members of the public about corruption.
ICAC can conduct an investigation in response to a complaint, or on its own initiative. A common misconception is that ICAC prosecutes corruption offences. In fact, ICAC only investigates and reports. It is then up to the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide whether or not to lay charges for a particular criminal offence.
For more information, visit the ICAC website and see our Fact Sheet on the ICAC, Ombudsman and Auditor General.
Australia has both government-appointed and industry-based ombudsmen. There are government-appointed ombudsmen at the national level and for each State and Territory. There are also several industry-based ombudsmen. You can read more about other industry-based ombudsmen here.
Complaints about the conduct of Australian public authorities can be made to the Commonwealth Ombudsman. A complaint to the Ombudsman should only be made if you have exhausted all other avenues of complaint, review or appeal (including any right of appeal to the Federal Court or Administrative Appeal Tribunal). Read more about these avenues of complaint in How can I have my say?.
For more information, visit the Commonwealth Ombudsman website.
Complaints about the conduct of NSW public authorities can be made to the NSW Ombudsman. A complaint to the Ombudsman should only be made if you have exhausted all other avenues of complaint, review or appeal (including any right of appeal to the Land and Environment Court). Read more about these avenues of complaint in How can I have my say?.
For more information, visit the NSW Ombudsman website.
Local Government Ombudsmen
Some local councils have an internal ombudsman. People can complain to the internal ombudsman concerning the administration of council business or conduct of council staff or councillors. Internal ombudsmen do not have specific statutory powers. To find out whether your council has an internal ombudsman, contact your local council.
NSW Energy & Water Ombudsman
The NSW Energy & Water Ombudsman is a government-approved, industry-run ombudsman, providing dispute resolution services to NSW electricity and gas customers, and some water customers.
The Ombudsman handles complaints about its members. All electricity and gas retailers and distributors are members, as well as some water service providers. A list of members of the NSW Energy & Water Ombudsman is available here.
For more information, visit the NSW Energy & Water Ombudsman website.
The Court System
The courts have a role to play in environmental decision-making. The NSW Land and Environment Court is a specialist court which deals with cases relating to development, the environment, and local government. It is part of the NSW court system, and has equal standing with the Supreme Court of NSW.
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) provides independent review of administrative decisions made by the Australian Government, as well as some non-government bodies.
Determinations by the Court are not able to be influenced by the public. However, if you are involved in a matter before the Court you may have an opportunity to put your case forward.
For more information about how you can have your say, see How can I have my say?.
This project has been assisted by the New South Wales Government through its Environmental Trust.