‘Acting’ Ombudsman another political band-aid from Mike Baird

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The NSW Opposition has raised concerns about today’s appointment by the Premier of an acting Ombudsman for two years as the replacement for Mr Bruce Barbour, whose term ends at the end of this month.

Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council Adam Searle and Shadow Attorney General Paul Lynch, both members of the Parliamentary Committee providing oversight of the Ombudsman, voiced fears about the impact of this appointment on the outcome of current investigations.

Mr Searle raised particular concerns around the Ombudsman’s prolonged investigation into Operation Prospect, which has paralysed the process for recruiting the state’s next Police Commissioner.

"This appointment is a disaster for the NSW police force,” Mr Searle said.

“The final recommendations of Operation Prospect will be subject to doubt because the person signing off on the recommendations is not the person who heard the evidence.

“After two and half years and millions of dollars, it is totally unacceptable for this matter to not be resolved before Mr Barbour leaves office - as was promised repeatedly.

"Operation Prospect has now effectively been aborted and cannot credibly be completed.

"This decision is also a blow to the important office of the Ombudsman, which must now continue under temporary leadership rather than a permanent appointment.

“The Ombudsman’s Office is tasked with a wide range of responsibilities that require continuity and stability that a two-year temporary appointment just doesn’t deliver.

“This decision is an abuse of the acting appointment power, which is meant to apply only for temporary vacancies or where a suitable appointee cannot be found in time.

“The Government has known when Mr Barbour's term ends for two years and has not even tried to recruit a new Ombudsman.

"This whole saga has been mismanaged by the NSW Government from the outset. The people of NSW deserve to know how it has come to this."

Shadow Attorney General Paul Lynch said: “Allegations of covert surveillance of senior police has forced the Government to delay recruiting a new Police Commissioner.  

“The Ombudsman’s investigation was intended to shed light on misconduct in the police force, yet here we are two and a half years and millions of dollars later and we are none the wiser.

“It is unclear how installing an ‘acting’ Ombudsman will bring a conclusion to Operation Prospect.

“To provide certainty to the NSW Police Force, the Government needs to set a clear date for the completion of the Ombudsman’s investigation.

“This mess has dragged on long enough,” added Mr Lynch.