New South Wales ombudsman releases damning report on water administration

Ombudsman reveals three previous reports provided to NSW government were buried

2000 NSW
Photograph: Washington Post/Getty Images

November 15,2017. The NSW ombudsman has released a damning report into maladministration of the state’s water portfolio, revealing that three previous reports provided to the government were buried.

The ombudsman has taken the unusual step of lodging a special report directly with the NSW parliament, in a bid to expose what it describes as “serious system failures” in the management of the state’s water policy.

The report, which spans a current investigation and three earlier ones over the last decade, reveals cover-ups at the highest levels of government and the bureaucracy. Three previous reports were handed to the departments responsible for water but not made public.

The Greens are now calling for a royal commission and say the measures taken by the government to date – an independent inquiry and a new National Resources Regulator – do not go far enough.

The report, tabled in parliament today, reveals the ombudsman received dozens of protected disclosures from staff, complaints from the public and from organisations over the last decade, well before the ABC’s Four Corners program put the issue of water theft on the agenda.

Yet despite investigating these and making recommendations for prosecutions, the NSW Office of Water and its predecessors largely failed to act.

So serious was one matter, that the ombudsman referred it to the Independent Commission against Corruption (Icac) in April this year, well before the revelations of alleged widespread water theft, meter tampering and allegations of special treatment for irrigators were made by Four Corners.

Read the entire article on The Guardian (Australia)