The Earthquake Commission (EQC) is under the magnifying glass of the Office of the Ombudsmen after a steep increase in the number of complaints lodged against the organisation.
The office, which is an independent authority set up to help the community deal with Government agencies, has been swamped with 443 official complaints and inquiries in relation to EQC in the past financial year, up from only 77 the previous year, its annual report said.
Of the 443 complaints, 389 were lodged under the Ombudsman Act and 54 were under the Official Information Act.
It was the "highest ever number of complaints" concerning state sector agencies the ombudsmen's office had received, yesterday's report said. The climb in complaints stretched resources and forced the ombudsmen to redeploy staff to meet the demand.
The figures come after The Press revealed last week that EQC experts had generated a spate of complaints, including to the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand.
Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem said a rise in EQC complaints had been expected after the Christchurch earthquakes, but the current increase was significant enough to spark concern.
The ombudsmen's office would be "keeping a watching brief" on the commission.
Delays, communication issues and an "inadequate" EQC complaints process had sparked most of complaints, Wakem said. Despite "grappling with a growing workload", the ombudsmen had prioritised EQC complaints because of the "urgency required to help people in the region", she said. The organisation had helped EQC to develop an internal complaint handling service and would closely watch "to determine whether it would be appropriate to take wider action".