NSW Ombudsman’s 2002-2003 Annual Report
The fine enforcement process
Complaints to the Ombudsman about the State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO) and the Infringement Processing Bureau (IPB) rose by nearly 200% last year. The Ombudsman, Bruce Barbour said the complaints identified a number of serious concerns about fine enforcement. Issues about the conduct of the IPB included:
The IPB referring matters to SDRO before properly considering the legislative criteria, most importantly, whether the fine had already been paid.
Processing delays resulting in
the IPB being forced to cancel infringement notices
individuals being denied access to the legal system
the undermining of consistent and reliable fine enforcement.
Telephone waiting times of up to 90 minutes.
6 months wait for a response to written appeals.
3-4 months wait for a refund of payments.
Poor information and customer service, including confusing recorded telephone advice, incorrect advice and multiple reminder notices for a single offence.
Failure by the IPB to consider evidence provided by complainants, resulting in appeals being inappropriately rejected. The person then has no other option but to have the matter determined by a court. This means the whole point of the review process, to minimise the need to use courts, is frustrated.
‘Although the IPB has made some attempt to address individual concerns, we believe the broader issues require further attention’ Mr Barbour said.
‘We have also raised matters with the SDRO in the past, particularly about attempting to recover money that has already been paid or attempting to recover money from the wrong person. The SDRO took some action at the time to fix these problems. We are pleased to note the SDRO has introduced new procedures to resolve complaints about very old matters. We will continue to monitor this situation to ensure the effectiveness of the new procedures’
See case study 9, page 32 of Annual Report for more examples of fine enforcement matters deal with by the Ombudsman.