The Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier is launching a broad investigation into the Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) booking system after receiving hundreds of complaints.
Mr Boshier says he has identified some common themes in about 200 complaints relating to the booking system.
Many of the complaints come from people who are having difficulties around the world obtaining vouchers for places in managed isolation or have concerns about the booking system overall.
“The complaints fit into four broad categories – they claim the allocation system is unlawful, unfit for purpose, unfair, and poorly managed. I have decided to do my own independent investigation into them all.”
“One of the specific complaints is that disabled people are being disadvantaged. I have concerns about whether the online booking system is accessible and whether suitable alternatives are being offered for those who have difficulty using this digital platform.”
Mr Boshier says he has notified the agency in charge of the booking system, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, of his intention to investigate.
“I want to give the public some assurance that the MIQ booking system is working as well as it should.”
“While I could investigate each of these complaints in turn, I don’t believe this is the most efficient way of addressing any underlying issues. That is why I am looking at them together.”
“When a new complaint comes in, my team will assess whether it should be addressed as part of this investigation or investigated and resolved individually.”
Mr Boshier will continue monitoring the wider MIQ system to identify any other interventions that may be needed.
He acknowledges the MIQ system was set up quickly in response to an immediate crisis.
“Border restrictions, along with managed isolation and quarantine facilities, are going to be a fact of life for some time to come.”
“I want to find out how MBIE is responding to these concerns and whether it has a robust plan in place for allocating places in the coming months and years. If there is not, I will recommend it makes improvements.”
Mr Boshier says since this will be a broad investigation, it will not directly result in anyone being granted a voucher right now or given priority in the queue.
“My message to anyone wanting a space is to continue to use the existing channels. If you believe that you meet the criteria for an emergency allocation, you should apply for it in the usual way. Otherwise, you should continue to seek a place through the virtual lobby.”
Mr Boshier says his aim is to report to Parliament on his substantive findings early next year.
“However, my investigation will need to be responsive. I may make statements on my findings at different stages rather than waiting to publish them at the very end.”
Mr Boshier is aware of current court proceedings about the Government’s operation of the MIQ system and will be taking this into account.
Additional Information on the Chief Ombudsman’s role
-The Chief Ombudsman’s role is to investigate and report on the actions, decisions and/or omissions of public sector agencies such as MBIE.
-By conducting investigations into the administrative conduct of public sector agencies, such as MBIE, the Ombudsman promotes accountability and transparency. This in turn enables Parliament and the public of Aotearoa New Zealand to have high levels of trust and confidence in MBIE.
-The Chief Ombudsman is not required to follow any particular process for investigating a matter. He may seek information from, or speak to anyone. He is required to abide by the principles of natural justice before forming a final opinion. His investigation must be conducted in private and he must maintain secrecy.
-The Chief Ombudsman does not however have the authority to examine any Court decisions, actions of the lawyers employed by or instructed to act for MBIE, nor decisions made by Ministers of the Crown.