Authorised officer complaints management policy

Introduction
Objective and principles
Policy scope
Making a complaint
Complaint handling process
Definitions

Introduction

The Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources ("the department") recognises the importance of a fair, transparent and responsive authorised officer complaints management system.

Commitment

The department is committed to having an effective complaints handling system that reflects the needs, expectations and rights of complainants and authorised officers.

The department's senior management fully support the effective operation of the complaint handling process to ensure that all complaints relating to authorised officer conduct are addressed in an efficient, fair and timely manner.

All authorised officers (AO), their managers and customer service staff will be trained on the AO complaint handling process.

Purpose

The purpose of this AO complaints management policy is to describe the process for management of complaints made by a member of the public about the conduct of an authorised officer in carrying out their duties.

The policy will guide the department regulators and support portfolio regulators in providing a fair, transparent and responsive AO complaints management service.

The AO complaints management policy defines:

  • the principles for handling complaints
  • the types of complaints covered
  • how to make a complaint
  • the process for handling complaints

Application

This AO complaints management policy applies to the following five regulators within the department:

  • Fisheries Victoria
  • Biosecurity
  • Forest Protest Management
  • Earth Resources Regulation and
  • Employment Information & Compliance Unit

The policy is intended to be used by members of the public who wish to lodge a complaint regarding an AO and by internal staff of the department for the handling of the complaint.

Objective and principles

This policy is required to ensure that the department has an effective and systematic process for managing complaints related to AOs and to ensure that processes are in place to eliminate the causes of complaints and provide a basis for continual review of the complaints management system.

The policy aims to reflect the needs, expectations and rights of complainants and AOs and provide the department with a robust process to assess allegations. If allegations are found to be malicious or defamatory, the department may take appropriate action on behalf of an AO.

To achieve this objective, the policy is based on the following underlying principles.

Table 1: principles

Principle Description
Fairness

Complainants and AOs will be treated fairly, with respect and courtesy.

Reviews and investigations will be undertaken by an officer not previously involved in the matter.

Reviews and investigations will be carried out in accordance with procedural fairness.

Transparency and access

Information regarding the right to complain, how to make a complaint and how the complaint will be handled is available on the department's website and through the Customer Service Centre.

AOs and other relevant staff will be appropriately trained to ensure they can provide information about accessing the complaints management system.

The division does not charge a fee for using the complaints management system.

Responsiveness

Complaints will be acknowledged within ten business days of receipt of the complaint.

Complaints will be handled in a timely manner. An indication of the timeframe for resolving the complaint will be provided during acknowledgement.

The complainant and AO against whom a complaint is made will be kept informed of the progress of the complaint and will be advised of the outcome of the review.

Privacy and confidentiality

The complaint handling process ensures confidentiality of the complainant and the AO/s involved in accordance with relevant privacy legislation.

Details of complaints will only be known by those employees directly concerned.

Accountability

All complaints and responses will be recorded on a central register.

Aggregated complaints data and trends will be made publicly available and reported annually against performance standards.

Business improvement Aggregated complaint data will be analysed and assessed regularly.

Any preventive actions or cost effective business improvements identified will be recommended to senior management for implementation.

The complaint handling process will be reviewed annually and amended as required.

Policy scope

The AO complaints management policy provides a consistent, fair and transparent system for managing complaints made by the public in relation to an AO.

Types of complaints covered by this policy

This policy covers complaints about the conduct of an AO. Examples of complaints relating to the conduct of an AO can include allegations of:

  • the use of inappropriate or offensive language,
  • an aggressive or rude demeanour,
  • the use of excessive force,
  • misuse of their statutory powers,
  • failure to comply with their legislative obligations,
  • discrimination or harassment, and
  • behaviour reflecting badly on the Victorian public service.

This policy does not replace existing review processes. Where a review process already exists it must be followed. For example, complaints relating to infringement notices must be managed via the existing internal review process as prescribed in the Infringements Act 2006. The division will advise complainants of any relevant statutory appeal rights.

Serious wrongdoing, illegal or corrupt conduct

Any person concerned about serious misconduct and/or possible retribution for making a complaint may make a protected disclosure either to the department's Protected Disclosure Coordinator or directly to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC).

Types of complaints that are NOT covered by this policy

This policy is specific to complaints about the conduct of an authorised officer or the enforcement related decision made by an authorised officer.

This policy does not apply to complaints regarding:

  • the department's policy position such as requests for certain practices to be outlawed, complaints about how certain species, practices or industries are regulated,
  • the department's program delivery e.g. lack of regulatory focus or selective enforcement on certain species, practices, industries or geographic areas,
  • reports of possible illegal activity of the public such as reports of animal cruelty, weed infestations, illegal fishing or illegal tree felling,
  • the appointment or conduct of committees of management, and
  • the conduct of other departmental employees.

If you wish to make a complaint regarding any of the points listed above, please use the central complaints portal or the Customer Service Centre for further advice. Complaints relating to the matters above will be referred from the central portal to other processes and work areas within the department for a response.

Making a complaint

This section describes the complaint management process that should be followed by a member of the public who wishes to make a complaint in relation to an AO of the department.

Initiating a complaint

In the first instance, the department encourages the complainant to attempt resolution directly with the AO or the AO's supervisor. The complaint may be a result of a mistake or misunderstanding that could be resolved promptly and informally.

If an informal solution is not possible, the complainant can then make a formal complaint.

Making a formal complaint

A centralised departmental complaints management portal has been established on the department's website to ensure all stakeholders have a simple and accessible means of lodging a complaint. The webpage will provide information about matters that should be referred to alternate processes (e.g. matter relating to protected disclosure or those that should be handled by an existing enforcement review procedure).

Matters relating to AO conduct or professionalism under this policy will require a complaint form to be completed online. Alternatively, the Customer Service Centre (136 186) can print and mail a hardcopy to you.

Completed hardcopy forms must be returned to:

CONFIDENTIAL
Complaints Assessor
Regulatory Practice Unit
Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
GPO Box 4509
Melbourne VIC 3001

or emailed to AO Complaints.

Special needs cases

The department recognises that not all complainants have the capacity to complete a written complaint. In situations where special needs cases exist, such as vision impairment or English as a second language, the complainant may seek to have another person complete the complaint on their behalf.

Alternatively, the Customer Service Centre may be able to complete the complaint form on behalf of the complainant over the phone.

Complaint content

All information provided in the complaint form must be true and complete. The complainant should only include the facts of the matter and must not make any misleading, false or malicious statements. Any complaint that is found to be malicious or defamatory may be pursued by the department and appropriate action taken on behalf of the AO.

Anonymous complaints

To make an anonymous complaint involves leaving your personal details out of the complaint form.

Anonymous complaints are difficult to investigate as complainants cannot be contacted to provide more information. An investigation may be undertaken if deemed warranted and sufficient information exists. If there is insufficient information, the complaint will be recorded on the central register but no further action will be taken.

Complaint handling process

This section summarises the department's complaint management process that departmental officers will follow when a complaint concerning an AO has been received from a member of the public. Further guidance is also provided in the department's internal AO complaints management procedure.

Acknowledgement

Upon receipt of a complaint, the department will send an acknowledgement correspondence to the complainant within ten business days. This will also explain which areas in the department the complaint has been sent for resolution and from whom the complainant should expect to hear about the review and outcome.

The AO against whom the complaint is made and the appropriate parties will be notified of the allegations.

Assessment

The complaint will be assessed to determine if it needs to be further considered as part of this complaints policy.

Factors which will be considered include:

  • the type of complaint,
  • the seriousness and potential impact of the complaint,
  • the potential for escalation or repetition,
  • whether the complaint is trivial or vexatious, or lacks substance or credibility, and
  • whether the complainant has any relevant statutory appeal rights.

Review

If warranted, an investigation will be undertaken, including liaison with the complainant, the AO, other witnesses and business experts to obtain the facts. Other sources of information will be gathered and assessed, including records, notices, property files and legislation.

Notification and remedy

The complainant, AO and other appropriate parties will be notified of the outcome of the complaint investigation and the decision made relating to a possible remedy.

Where appropriate, remedies will be actioned.

Appeal

If a complainant is dissatisfied with how their complaint was handled, a senior departmental manager at arms-length from the initial review will undertake an internal review.

Alternatively, if the complainant is unhappy with the outcome of their complaint, they can contact the Victorian Ombudsman.

Definitions

Authorised officer: a person appointed by the Minister or the Secretary or a delegate of the Minister or the Secretary, to carry out a compliance function or an enforcement function under legislation administered by the department.

Complainant: the person or entity who lodges a complaint.

Complaint: the expression of dissatisfaction about the conduct or decision made by an authorised officer.

The department: the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.

Enforcement related decision: the decision made by an authorised officer in response to detection of an offence.

Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC): an anti-corruption body with responsibility for identifying and preventing serious corrupt conduct across the whole Victorian public sector, including members of Parliament, the judiciary and state and local government.

Investigation: a formal inquiry undertaken by an investigator into a complaint.

Investigator: the individual responsible for undertaking an investigation into a complaint. May be a departmental employee or an external consultant.

Procedural fairness: principles that ensure a fair decision is reached by an objective decision maker.

Protected disclosure: the term applied in the Protected Disclosure Act 2012 (the PD Act) to an allegation or disclosure of improper conduct by a public officer or the department that meets the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission of Victoria (IBAC) assessment requirements. The discloser is protected from reprisals by the PD Act.

Page last updated: 20 July 2016