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Contents

Purpose

These procedures detail how the department responds to complaints and complements the department’s Complaint Management Policy.  

Scope

These procedures address complaints about the products and services provided by the department to its customers and applies to all staff, contractors and volunteers engaged by the department.

Definitions

A complaint for the purpose of this policy is aligned to AS/NZS 10002:2014, wherein a complaint is defined as an ‘expression of dissatisfaction made to, or about an organisation, related to its products, services, staff or the handling of a complaint where a response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected or legally required.’

The Standard identifies certain matters that are not subject to these complaint procedures and they include:

  • matters of administrative law;
  • appeal decisions;
  • judicial decisions;
  • approaches made directly to a Minister or the State Ombudsman;
  • allegations of misconduct by public officers involving corrupt or criminal activities (these are to be reported to the Corruption and Crime Commission);
  • any review process available under the Freedom of Information Act 1992 (WA);
  • disclosures and wrongdoing within the state public sector involving improper conduct or irregular use of public resources (these can be pursued through the Public Interest Disclosure process);
  • any grievance under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 or other Public Sector Human Resource Management Standards; complaint handling processes that are part of the agency’s core function. It also excludes complaints made by departmental employees that are employment related.
Complainant
is a person or organisation making a complaint.
Customer
is a person or organisation receiving advice, a service, using the facilities, engaging in an interaction or business relationship, or any other person or organisation having an interest in the functions or activities of the department.

Receipt of Complaints:

The department may receive complaints relating to its services and products and other issues such as complaints under section 5.105 of the Local Government Act 1995 and complaints under section 117 of the Liquor Control Act 1988.  Complaints of this nature are dealt with in accordance with specific established procedures. General complaints about the department’s services are to be referred to the relevant business area and processed in accordance with these procedures. Details of the complaint must also be recorded in the General Complaints Register managed by Corporate Governance.

General complaints — receipt

  1. A complaint can be lodged with department staff, contractors or volunteers using the department’s online form, in person, via email, fax, letter or by telephone.
  2. The complaint recipient must ensure that the complainant has provided:their personal and contact details;
    • a summary of the complaint; and
    • details of the outcome sought by the complainant.
  3. As soon as practicable, the complaint recipient is to contact the complainant to acknowledge receipt of their complaint.
  4. The complaint recipient will review the complaint and:
    • assess the complexity, severity and risk associated with the complaint (if the complaint involves multiple parties then coordinating communication is to be established between all parties, including the complainant.
    • determine if it will be processed (if not, deal with it in accordance with the “refusal to accept complaints” section of these procedures);
    • determine a timeframe for the response;
    • allocate a reference number; and
    • communicate the above details to the Manager Corporate Governance for recording in the department’s General Complaints Register.
  5. The complaint recipient will advise the complainant that their complaint has been received and the process moving forward, including the timeframe for an outcome.
  6. The complaint recipient is to ensure that there is no conflict of interest when dealing with the complainant. In the event of a conflict of interest, the complaint recipient will refer the complaint to their line manager for actioning by an alternate party.
  7. The complaint recipient will contact the complainant within three working days of receipt of the complaint and provide advice on:
    • the timeframe for dealing with the complaint; and
    • a reference number for the complaint.

A copy of this advice is to be provided to Corporate Governance for recording in the General Complaints Register.

Processing and investigation

  1. The complaint recipient will review the complaint details and where necessary, contact the complainant to seek any further information if required.
  2. The complaint recipient will assess the complaint and take the necessary action  to facilitate a decision (refer to the Ombudsman’s Investigation of Complaints publication). This may include discussing the matter with other officers, during which the identity or other information relating to the complainant is to be kept confidential. If the complaint recipient is of the view that the complaint warrants immediate action, they may take the necessary steps to initiate such action.
  3. If the complaint recipient determines that they will not be able to arrive at a decision within the prescribed timeframe, they must contact the complainant to negotiate a new timeframe for dealing with the complaint and inform Corporate Governance accordingly. This information is then recorded in the General Complaints Register.
  4. After proceeding as above, the complaint recipient should be in a position to make a decision about the complaint.
  5. The complaint recipient must confirm any decision with their line manager before communicating the outcome to the complainant.
  6. The complaint recipient is to advise the complainant in writing of their decision, this is to include:
    • the reasons for their decision;
    • any actions taken (or to be taken) as a result of the complaint;
    • the proposed remedy; and
    • the process available to them if they are not satisfied with the response provided by the complaint recipient.
  7. The complaint recipient will ensure all information relating to the complaint is appropriately recorded and stored.
  8. The complaint recipient must refer any matter to their line manager that requires disciplinary action, training/upskilling or a review of programs and policies. Where practicable, consideration is also to be given to extending remedies to other affected customers who did not complain.
  9. The complaint recipient must provide details of the decision to Corporate Governance as soon as practicable after the complaint has been addressed and resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant.
  10. Corporate Governance is to record the details of the decision in the General Complaint Register. An assessment of the complainant’s satisfaction with the process should also be determined and recorded.

Internal review of complaints

  1. Corporate Governance is responsible for receiving requests for internal review (either from the complainant or through the complaint recipient) and will be required to determine whether they have enough information from the complainant to warrant proceeding with a review.
  2. Corporate Governance will determine the most appropriate person to undertake the review, subject to a conflict of interest test.
  3. Corporate Governance will contact the complainant to acknowledge receipt of their request for an internal review and will provide the name of the reviewing officer and the timeframe for a response. A copy of this advice will also be provided to the reviewing officer.
  4. Corporate Governance will provide the reviewing officer with details of the internal review request and all the information relating to the original complaint.
  5. The reviewing officer will review the information provided and may seek more information from the complaint recipient if required.
  6. The reviewing officer is to make a decision on the review request within 60 working days but should endeavour to finalise the review prior to the 60 days. The reviewing officer is to provide notice of the decision to the complainant in writing (including information about the option of seeking further review from the Ombudsman). Corporate Governance is also to be provided with a copy of the decision.
  7. Corporate Governance is to record the details of the review decision in the General Complaints Register.
  8. The reviewing officer (or their delegate) may take any action necessary as a result of the complaint, including the actions identified in clause 15, processing and investigation.

Refusal to accept complaints

A refusal to accept a complaint can be made in the following circumstances:

  1. If the complaint recipient determines that the complaint is vexatious or trivial.
  2. Where the complaint recipient contacts the complainant and suggests that they review their complaint so that it can be processed by the department. If this is not possible, or the complainant does not agree, proceed to step 3 below.
  3. The complaint recipient advises the complainant that their complaint will not be processed and gives the reasons why. The advice must include notice that they have the right to request an internal review of the decision through the department or by the Ombudsman.
  4. The complaint recipient must send any advice framed in accordance with point 3 above to their line manager for approval following which it is sent to the complainant and Corporate Governance for recording in the General Complaint Register.

Review of complaints data

  1. Each quarter, Corporate Governance will collate the complaints data as follows -
    • the number and nature of complaints (including those referred to the Ombudsman);
    • the outcomes of complaints and any remedies provided and actions taken;
    • compliance with prescribed timeframes for a response;
    • satisfaction of complainants with the process; and
    • any recurring issues or themes.  
  2. Corporate Governance will review the data, identifying -
    • any non-compliance with legislation, department policies, or any other compliance issues identified during the complaints process;
    • any deficiencies in the department’s services or processes identified through the complaint process; and
    • any opportunities to improve the complaints management process.
  3. Corporate Governance will collate the data and report any significant findings to Corporate Executive.

Records management

Business areas and officers processing complaints are responsible for storing records of their investigations and decisions securely in either personnel or program/administration files as appropriate. This includes keeping file notes and other records of any conversations, interviews, or other proceedings. Corporate Governance is responsible for storing records about complaints and complaint data, in an access-restricted TRIM file.

Compliance context

Legislation and regulations

  • Corruption and Crime Commission Act 2003
  • Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913
  • Disability Services Act 1993
  • Equal Opportunity Act 1984
  • Freedom of Information Act 1992
  • Public Interest Disclosure Act 2003
  • Public Sector Management Act 1994

Whole of government policy

  • Public Sector Commissioner’s Circular 2009-27: Complaints Management
  • Public Sector Commissioner’s Instruction No.7 — Code of Ethics
  • Western Australian Government Policy Framework for Substantive Equality
  • Western Australian Language Services Policy 2014

Department policy and procedure

  • Code of Conduct
  • Complaints Management Procedure (under development)
  • Disability Access and Inclusion Plan
  • Fraud and Corruption Control Framework (under development)
  • Freedom of Information Policy
  • Work Health and Safety Policy
  • Public Interest Disclosure Policy
  • Record Keeping Plan

Supplementary documents

  • Customer Service Charter (under development)

Other related documents

  • AS/NZS 10002:2014 Guidelines for Complaint Management in Organisations
  • Ombudsman WA Effective handling of complaints resources
  • Western Australian Government Complaints webpage
  • Western Australian Language Services Policy 2014
  • Western Australian Disability Access and Inclusion Plan
  • Policy Framework for Substantive Equality
Page reviewed 31 January 2020