Can OPG force someone to answer questions?
Yes, section 25 of the Public Guardian Act 2014 gives the Public Guardian the power to require a witness to appear before the Public Guardian and answer questions and produce documents. Penalties apply for non-compliance.
Why can’t OPG investigate when a person has capacity but their attorney for financial matters is acting inappropriately?
If a person has capacity, it is their basic right to make a decision on how to proceed. Their views and wishes must be respected. In these type of circumstances, an adult should consider urgently seeking legal advice to be aware of all their options. Matters such as these should be referred to appropriate agencies. For senior Queenslanders, this might include seeking legal advice from the Seniors Legal and Support Service or seeking advice from a private solicitor. This will require the support and approval of the adult to take any action.
Depending upon the financial matter, the Queensland Police Service may be an avenue for action if the adult wishes to pursue this.
The Elder Abuse Prevention Unit may be able to provide information about options to consider.
I’ve got a feeling that someone isn’t treating an adult properly. Is that enough for OPG to investigate?
No. You need to provide us with details about what you have observed or are aware of that indicates the adult may be subject to abuse, neglect, exploitation or mistreatment.
I suspect an attorney (or private appointed guardian or administrator) isn’t performing their role properly. Who can I ask for advice about taking protective action for an adult without decision-making capacity?
If you suspect an attorney or private guardian/administrator isn’t performing their role properly, you can contact our Guardianship team for information about what the role of the decision maker is and what protective measures may be possible.
Can I make an anonymous referral to OPG?
Yes, you can remain anonymous. You can choose to have a referral form sent to you for completion and not provide your personal details in the form or our Intake Officer can go through the referral form with you on the phone to ensure we have all relevant information to make a decision. However, please be aware if you do choose to remain anonymous you won’t be notified about the outcome of the investigation.
How long should it take to conduct an investigation?
It will depend on many factors including the complexity of the case, the information required and the level of risk to the adult associated with the concerns raised. Investigations can take a number of months even if protective action such as a suspension occurs initially. Some complex investigations involving multiple allegations and significant asset, property and legal structures or large families in extensive conflict can take many months or in excess of a year depending upon the issues.
We will always complete an investigation as quickly as we can, but we must always prioritise our investigations to protect the rights and safety of our vulnerable clients.
For active/ongoing investigations
If an investigation is underway and the Office of the Public Guardian has not suspended an attorney, can the attorney remove someone from hospital or continue to withdraw money?
Yes. Whilst an investigation is underway the attorney retains their role and responsibilities as OPG are only investigating the concerns raised and are not appointed for the adult (other than in the situation where the Public Guardian has suspended an attorney during an investigation). However, if the removal of the adult from hospital is not appropriate to their circumstances (or against medical advice) you should urgently speak with hospital staff and contact the OPG investigator and advise them of the change in circumstances.
My sister asked me if I reported her to the OPG as she said they are investigating her as Mum’s attorney. Would the OPG have told her this? How do you protect my wish not to be identified?
It is generally not considered in the public interest to release that information and during the investigation, our investigators do not confirm or release the discloser’s identity to any parties associated with the matter. However, as part of our investigations, we may need to contact people in an adult’s life, and this may lead to some people to make assumptions. The OPG investigator will not confirm a person’s suspicion of who might have made contact with the OPG.
For closed investigations
Can you give me information about a closed case?
Generally no, unless you are the adult or the appointed attorney/guardian/administrator for the adult. However, there are various circumstances where particular information may be released depending upon the circumstances and whether it is in the public interest. This includes when an adult has died and information may be requested in relation to deceased estate matters. It is suggested that if you are seeking information about a closed case and you are not one of the listed people, you should contact OPG to clarify whether you may be entitled to information about the case.
OPG conducted an investigation and the financial attorney was suspended. QCAT removed the attorney and appointed an independent administrator. The case closed two years ago but one of the past attorneys is now charged by the police with fraud. Can police request a statement and information from an OPG investigator?
Yes, OPG investigators provide relevant information and evidence to the police either by making a complaint to police or assisting with a police investigation commenced through other sources. If the matter proceeds to charges and potential court matters, the police will request a formal statement from the OPG investigator and any further information. OPG investigators have appeared as witnesses in criminal matters and regularly appear at QCAT hearings in relation to OPG investigations.