Shadow Minister for Finance Rob Lucas said today that all members of the Statutory Authorities Review Committee had reported they were ‘appalled’ at some of the evidence given to an inquiry into the operation of the Rann Government’s Office of the Public Trustee.
Mr Lucas said that Labor, Liberal and Independent MLCs all agreed on the following conclusion:
“The Statutory Authorities Review Committee was appalled at some of the historical examples provided in evidence to the Committee of unacceptable levels of performance and service provided to some clients, as well as unacceptable treatment of some staff of the OPT by other staff and managers of the OPT.”
“The Committee acknowledged evidence from the new Public Trustee that changes to the operation of the OPT were being implemented but the Committee reserved its judgement on the adequacy of the changes and has proposed a further inquiry by the SARC in two years,” Mr Lucas said.
“The Committee received shocking evidence of bullying and mistreatment of staff by other staff of OPT which had not been properly managed by management of the OPT.
“Complaints made by staff covered many issues including the ‘bizarre sexual proclivities’ of one manager. Whilst many complaints were made by staff, only one manager was finally disciplined and moved out of the agency,” Mr Lucas said.
Some of the many complaints received from the clients and staff of OPT about the quality of services included:
• Long delays in returning phone calls or answering correspondence or in some cases, no response at all;
• Failure by OPT staff to pay some bills for clients on time thus incurring late penalty fee;
• OPT staff who threw correspondence into a rubbish bin or hid ‘difficult’ correspondence in a desk drawer without response;
• Families being told no money was left in a client account of OPT when in fact when those complaints were investigated, OPT returned up to $20,000 back into the account; and,
• A person with six weeks to live was denied extra pocket money for a trip to Victor Harbor even though there was $10,000 left in his account and they were told the money needed to be kept for funeral costs.
Mr Lucas said that all members of the Committee agreed that the majority of evidence received by the Committee reflects a sub standard customer service culture at the OPT.
“Attorney-General Michael Atkinson is the Minister responsible to the OPT and will now have to respond to the unanimous recommendations of all members of the SARC.”