In a report released today by the Public Advocate, the Public Trustee has come under intense scrutiny for allegedly overcharging some of its clients.
The Public Trustee provides financial management services to more than 10,000 Queenslanders each year, including more than 9300 people under an administration appointment by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).
The review was sparked in response to Queenslanders, including legal practitioners, voicing their concerns surrounding the costs charged to clients by the Public Trustee.
The report makes 32 recommendations that are broad-ranging and relate to the Public Trustee’s fees and charges, community service obligations, investment practices and legal service.
Queensland Law Society President Elizabeth Shearer said QLS welcomed the tabling of the Public Advocate’s report into these historical matters and commended the response of the Queensland Government.
“We are pleased to see measures for greater transparency and accountability being recommended and implemented by Government in response to issues of concern to legal practitioners in Queensland for sometime,” President Shearer said.
“We will review the detail of the report, consider its recommendations and would welcome engagement with the Government on issues of implementation.”
In response to the report, the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Minister for Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, the Honourable Shannon Fentiman, announced that a new Public Trust Board would be launched.
The board was seen as necessary in focusing on the improvement of the Public Trustee’s performance, transparency and accountability.
“An internal review into the Public Trustee’s fees and charges is already under way including significant changes to its operational systems to ensure better service delivery to the community,” Ms Fentiman said.
“While the Government is respectful of the Public Trustee’s independence, it has a responsibility to ensure the body is open and accountable to community expectations.”
Ms Fentiman said the Government was committed to protecting Queenslanders at their most vulnerable and the board was a step in the right direction.
“We are committed to improvement, but it should not be forgotten that the Public Advocate’s report found many of the Public Trustee customers appear to receive a high level of service for very little or no cost,” Ms Fentiman said.
“At the same time, the report did identify some opportunities to improve the way the Public Trustee engages with its customers, and it is clear that the agency needs to be more transparent about its fees and charges.”