General Complaints Process Policy by dtj80147

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									General Complaints Process Policy


Effective from: 1 January 2010
Contact officer: Complaints Review Coordinator, Office of the CEO
Next review date: January 2012
File reference: LG473/576/10
Resolutions: G09.1130.011; GF09.1125.006

OBJECTIVES

The objectives of this policy are to:
    Ensure that the process for managing a complaint about an administrative action of
       Council is fair, effective, efficient, transparent and consistent across Council; and
    Facilitate the use of the information obtained from the complaints management
       process to improve overall service delivery.

Key Focus Area               Corporate governance, organisational capability and customer
                             contact

Key Focus Area               Excellence in customer contact
Outcome
Performance Measures          % of all customers who lodge a complaint and who provide
                               feedback that they are satisfied with the complaints
                               management process
                              % of staff who are aware of, and have knowledge of the
                               complaints management process

Risk Treatment               Corporate Governance


POLICY STATEMENT

It is a requirement under the Local Government Act that all Councils adopt a process for
resolving complaints.

GCCC adheres to the following principles when managing complaints:

         Fair and objective. All complaints are considered on their merits and the principles of
         natural justice are observed.

         Easily accessible and visible. The complaints process is publicly available and easy
         to understand.

         Confidential. Complaints are managed according to Council’s information
         management policies and relevant legislation.

         Client focus and responsive to the customer. Complaints are to be acknowledged and
         affected persons kept informed of progress.

         Effective. The complaints process addresses the specific issues raised by the
         affected person.



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         Continuous improvement. Where applicable, the outcomes from a complaint
         management process are applied to improve business operations, policies and
         procedures.

         Open and accountable. The decisions and outcomes regarding a complaint are made
         available to the affected person, subject to statutory provisions.

The policy also aims to ensure the safety of Council officers who manage complaints and
that courtesy and consideration is given to all concerned when a complaint is lodged with
Council.

Wherever possible, Council will aim to address a customer’s complaint at the customer’s first
point of contact with Council. If a complaint cannot be resolved at the first point of contact,
the following process will occur:

    1. First Tier Review. An affected person can request a First Tier Review. The
       complaint may be referred to a Complaints Officer for investigation and a response
       will be provided to the affected person.

    2. Second Tier Review. If the complaint is not resolved by a First Tier Review, an
       affected person can request a Second Tier Review. The complaint may be referred
       to the Complaints Review Coordinator for further investigation, with a further
       response to be provided to the affected person.

Council’s complaints review process does not limit an affected person’s ability to make a
complaint directly to the Queensland Ombudsman or any other external complaints review
process, such as a judicial review.

If the Ombudsman refers a complaint to Council before being processed as a complaint
under the Ombudsman Act 2001, the complaint will be investigated by Council in accordance
with the First and Second Tier Review processes, unless otherwise determined by the CEO.

A complaint about an administrative action of Council or a minor breach of the Code of
Conduct for Councillors is to be managed according to the procedures described in Appendix
A, Gold Coast City Council General Complaints Process.

SCOPE

This policy provides the principles and a process for managing a complaint about:
    An administrative action of Council in accordance with the requirements of the Local
       Government Act 1993; or
    An alleged minor breach of the Code of Conduct for Councillors.

This policy does not provide for:
    A complaint about official misconduct or a criminal matter.
    A competitive neutrality complaint.
    A complaint that must be managed according to provisions contained in a local law or
       legislation such as the Integrated Planning Act or Building Act.
    A complaint regarding a liability claim against Council.




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DEFINITIONS

Administrative action complaint is a complaint by an affected person about an
administrative action of Council including, for example, a decision, or a failure to make a
decision, a failure to provide a written statement of reasons for a decision, an act, or a failure
to do an act, the formulation of a proposal or intention or the making of a recommendation.

Affected person is a person who is apparently directly affected by an administrative action
of Council.

Complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction with an administrative action of Council.

Complaints officer is an officer appointed to undertake a First Tier Review of a complaint.

Complaints Review Coordinator is a Council officer appointed to undertake a Second Tier
Review of a complaint.

Enquiry is a request for clarification, advice, information or further information about Council
services, policies or procedures.        Enquiries can usually be resolved in a one-off
communication.

First Tier Review is a review of a complaint by a Complaints Officer.

Frivolous or trivial complaint is a complaint which the Complaints Officer and relevant
manager consider to be minor and not worthy of further action.

Liability claim is a claim, demand, action or proceeding against Council for damages
alleging a legal liability for breach of a duty of care, breach of statutory duty, breach of
contract or other legal course of action.

Queensland Ombudsman’s Office is an independent complaints investigation agency.

Second Tier Review is a review of a complaint by the Complaints Review Coordinator.

Vexatious complaint is a complaint which, at the discretion of the Complaints Officer and
relevant manager, is considered to be mischievous, without sufficient grounds or serving only
to cause annoyance.

RELATED POLICIES / LEGISLATION

Local Government Act 1993 and 2009
Information Privacy Act (Qld) 2009
Right to Information Act 2009
Information Management Policy
Acknowledgement of Correspondence Policy

RELATED DOCUMENTS

General Complaints Process (Appendix 1)
GCCC Office locations and contacts (Appendix 2)
GCCC Complaint Lodgement Form (Appendix 3)

RESPONSIBILITIES
Policy Sponsor                   CEO
Policy Owner                     Manager, OCEO
Policy Implementation            Complaints Review Coordinator, OCEO
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Appendix 1:

General Complaints Process


1 Introduction

Council welcomes feedback and suggestions for improving its services. Constructive
feedback will be forwarded to the relevant section of Council for consideration.

An enquiry or a request for service or information is not classified as a complaint.
For example, a customer might:
    Seek further information about the amount of a rates bill;
    Request Council to take action on a barking dog or a noisy pool filter;
    Request Council to provide a rubbish removal service; or
    Enquire about a development proposal.

Enquiries and requests for information can usually be addressed by a Customer
Service Officer located at a Council office (see Appendix 2). If further information is
required, the request may be referred to the relevant area for a response.

A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction by an affected person in regard to an
administrative action of Council or a Council employee. An administrative action
includes:
     A decision, or a failure to make a decision;
     A failure to provide a written statement of reasons for a decision;
     An act, or a failure to do an act;
     The formulation of a proposal or intention; or
     The making of a recommendation.

For example, failure to provide a response to a letter within a reasonable time would
be classified as an administrative action that can lead to a legitimate reason for a
complaint.

An affected person is a person who may be directly affected by an administrative
action.

1.1 How to make a complaint

A complaint may be made:

        In person to a Customer Service Officer located at one of Council’s
         administrative centres or branch offices; or
        By telephone. The general phone number for Council is 1300 130 854; or
        In writing by letter, facsimile or email.
         Complaints are to be addressed to:
                  Chief Executive Officer
                  Gold Coast City Council
                  PO Box 5042
                  Gold Coast Mail Centre Q 9729
                  Email: gcccmail@goldcoast.qld.gov.au
                  Facsimile: 55963653


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        Online.   A complaint form is available on the Council website
         www.goldcoast.qld.gov.au or from a Council office (see Appendix 3).

More serious or complex complaints that require a detailed investigation must be
made in writing. This will assist Council in understanding and investigating the issues
relating to the complaint.

Council aims to provide a response to an affected person within 10 working days of
receiving the complaint.

1.2 Assistance

Language assistance is available for people from non-English speaking backgrounds
by calling the National Translating and Interpreting Service (NTIS) on 13 14 50.
Advise the NTIS of the preferred language and ask to speak with the Gold Coast City
Council Customer Service on 1300 130 854.

In accordance with Council’s Equitable Access Policy, assistance is available for
anyone with a disability who wishes to make a Complaint to Council. If assistance is
required, please telephone (07) 5581 5239 or speak to a Customer Service Officer at
one of the Council offices.

1.3 Lodging a complaint on behalf of another person

If an affected person is unable to lodge a complaint personally, due to poor health,
distance, language, legal or other reasons, the complaint may be lodged by another
person or agent on their behalf.

An officer who receives a complaint will take all reasonable steps to confirm that the
person claiming to act on behalf of the affected person has the appropriate authority
to do so. Written authorisation by the affected person must be provided for more
serious complaints or matters that may involve disclosing personal information.

If a complaint is formally lodged by an authorised agent, such as a solicitor or
accountant acting on behalf of the affected person, responses will be provided
directly to that agent.

2. Council’s complaints process

Wherever possible, Council will aim to address a customer’s complaint at the
customer’s first point of contact with Council. If a complaint cannot be resolved at the
first point of contact, the following process has been established to address the
concerns that have been raised as quickly and effectively as possible.

    1. Initial consultation with the relevant officers.

    2. First Tier Review.

    3. Second Tier Review.

In some instances, as determined by the CEO, relevant manager or the appointed
officer, a suitably qualified independent external investigator may be appointed to
review a complaint on behalf of Council.




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Council’s internal complaints review process does not limit a person’s ability to make
a complaint directly to the Queensland Ombudsman or via any other external
complaints review process. Where a complaint has been referred directly to the
Queensland Ombudsman, the Ombudsman may choose to refer the matter to the
CEO for an investigation beforehand. In such cases, unless otherwise determined by
the CEO, the complaint will be investigated in accordance with the First and Second
Tier Review processes.

An affected person can also choose to pursue a complaint through the courts or
under the provisions of the Judicial Review Act 1991 or, if the matter relates to
misconduct, the Crime and Misconduct Commission under the provisions of the
Crime and Misconduct Act 2001.

When investigating a complaint, Council is required to comply with the following
principles of natural justice:
     A hearing* must be appropriate to the circumstances.
     There must be a hearing before the decision.
     There must be full disclosure before the decision.
     There must be a reasonable opportunity to respond.
     Genuine consideration must be give to any submission.

    *Refers to an administrative hearing which is usually an exchange of letters. In
    some situations, an oral hearing will be appropriate.

In addition, the principles of natural justice require an absence of bias. There must
be evidence to support a decision and there must be provision for inquiry into
disputed matters.

2.1 Initial consultation

A complaint received by a Customer Service Officer, in person, by email, in writing or
over the telephone should, wherever possible, be resolved by that officer at the time
of receiving the complaint.

If the officer who received the complaint is unable to resolve the matter, it is to be
referred to the officer who was responsible for the administrative action in question,
or the manager of the relevant area for a response.

If the affected person is satisfied with the response provided by the relevant area, no
further action is required.

2.2. First Tier Review

If the responsible area cannot resolve the complaint, the affected person can request
a First Tier Review. The matter may also be referred to the relevant manager by a
Council officer to be considered for a First Tier Review

A request for a First Tier Review requires authorisation by the relevant manager who
will determine the officer to be responsible for undertaking the review.

Wherever possible, the appointed Complaints Officer will be located within the
Branch that was responsible for the administrative action relating to the complaint.
The Complaints Officer must not have been involved in the original administrative




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action that is under review and must be no less senior than the officer who undertook
the administrative action.

If the appointed Complaints Officer has a potential or perceived conflict of interest in
regard to the investigation, another officer must be appointed.

In general, the following types of complaints will not be investigated as a First Tier
Review:
     An anonymous complaint, unless considered warranted by the manager.
     A complaint that is made 12 months after the event that gave rise to the
       complaint.
     A complaint considered by the manager to be trivial, frivolous or vexatious.

Under section 501F of the Local Government Act, a Complaints Officer can refuse to
investigate, or continue to investigate a complaint or an alleged breach of the Code
of Conduct for Councillors if the complaint concerns a frivolous matter or was made
vexatiously or if the complainant does not have a sufficient direct interest in the
administrative action in question.

A Complaints Officer may also refuse to investigate a complaint if:
    the complainant has a right of appeal, reference or review, or another
     remedy, that the person has not exhausted; and
    it would be reasonable in the circumstances to require the complainant to
     exhaust the right or remedy before the officer investigates, or continues to
     investigate the complaint; or
    in the circumstances, investigating the administrative action or alleged minor
     breach of the Code of Conduct for Councillors complained of is unnecessary
     or unjustifiable.

If an affected person is pursuing the complaint through an alternative process, e.g.
an investigation by the Ombudsman’s Office, the affected person would be expected
to complete that process before any investigation by Council commences.

The Complaints Officer will ensure that an affected person is advised of the review
within 10 working days (consistent with Council’s policy regarding acknowledgment
of correspondence). The timeframe for completing a First Tier Review will depend on
the circumstances including the seriousness, urgency and complexity of the matters
to be investigated. The Complaints Officer will keep the affected person informed of
the progress of the investigation.

Upon completion of the First Tier Review, the affected person will be provided with a
Statement of Reasons, with a copy to the relevant manager. The Statement of
Reasons describes:
    The relevant Council policies, local laws and other statutory provisions, such
      as the sections of legislation;
    Correspondence and other communications relating to the complaint;
    Evidence and other material available to Council;
    Findings of fact;
    Any decisions made by Council in regard to the complaint; and
    The reasons for Council’s decisions.

If the complaint is sustained, the affected person will also be advised of:
      any remedy to be made available to the affected person;




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        if applicable, the circumstances and timeframe in which the remedy will be
         made available; and/or
        whether the investigation identified the need to revise Council policy,
         procedure or practice to prevent similar complaints arising, details of the
         proposed revision and the timeframe for implementation.

If the affected person is satisfied with the Statement of Reasons from the First Tier
Review, no further action is required.

2.3 Second Tier Review

If the affected person remains dissatisfied with the outcome from the First Tier
Review, the affected person may request a Second Tier Review by the Complaints
Review Coordinator.

A Second Tier Review requires:
    A written request addressed to the Complaints Review Coordinator; and
    A Statement of Reasons from the relevant Complaints Officer.

The Complaints Review Coordinator will consider the request, the Statement of
Reasons from the First Tier Review, and any other relevant information that is
available. If required, the Complaints Review Coordinator will also consult with the
affected person and other relevant persons to assess the need for a Second Tier
Review.

The Complaints Review Coordinator will either:
    Determine that a Second Tier Review is warranted;
    Refer the complaint to the relevant section for further investigation before
      commencing a Second Tier Review; or
    Determine that all avenues for perusing the complaint have been exhausted
      and, in accordance with the provisions of section 501F of the Local
      Government Act 1993, no further investigation by Council is required.

If a Second Tier Review is not considered to be warranted, the affected person and
the relevant director will be advised of that decision and the reasons for the decision.
if the affected person is satisfied with that response, no further action is required.

If the Complaints Review Coordinator considers that a Second Tier Review is
warranted, the affected person and the relevant director will be advised accordingly
and the Complaints Review Coordinator will conduct further investigation, analysis
and consultation with the affected person and other stakeholders as required.

The Second Tier Review will consider the process that was followed during the First
Tier Review, including:
     the adequacy of the Statement of Reasons;
     the relevant legislation/policy has been considered;
     the appropriate delegations and authorisations are in place;
     all relevant evidence was considered;
     the findings of the evidence had been appropriately analysed and recorded;
     the principles of natural justice had been observed; and
     the final decision was based on the above considerations.




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The Complaints Review Coordinator will consider all available evidence, make a
decision or recommendation and provide a report on the findings of the Second Tier
Review to the CEO and/or the relevant director.

The affected person will be advised of the final decision and be provided with a
second Statement of Reasons. The affected person will also be provided with
information about the Queensland Ombudsman’s Office. If the affected person is
satisfied with the response from the Second Tier Review, no further action is
required.

If the affected person is dissatisfied with the response from the Complaints Review
Coordinator, the affected person can refer the matter to the Queensland
Ombudsman for an independent external review. The Queensland Ombudsman will
liaise with Council through the Office of the CEO for any further information that may
be required and will respond directly to the affected person.

3 Complaints about the Mayor or a Councillor

Any complaint about the conduct or performance of the Mayor or an individual
Councillor, including an alleged breach of the Code of Conduct for Councillors, must
be referred in writing to the CEO.

A complaint about a minor breach of the Code of Conduct for Councillors is to be
managed in accordance with section 250S of the Local Government Act 1993.

Note: Provision for a complaint about a minor breach of the Code of Conduct for
Councillors will be removed from the General Complaints Process Policy once the
Local Government Act 2009 is implemented. Complaints regarding the conduct or
performance of the Mayor or an individual Councillor will then be subject to the
relevant sections of the Local Government Act 2009.

4 Complaint concerning a liability claim

A liability claim includes a claim for damages for a breach of a duty of care, statutory
duty or other legal course of action. A liability claim may also refer to a claim for
restitution of property, compensation, declaration as to land rights and other orders.

Any complaints concerning a liability claim must be referred to Legal Services
Branch.

5 Finalising a complaint

A complaint may be finalised at any stage of the process if the affected person is
satisfied with the response provided by Council.

The CEO, or appointed officer, may determine that no further action is required by a
Council officer in regard to a complaint if:

        There has been a complete and thorough investigation of the complaint in
         accordance with the First and Second Tier Review processes (or any other
         process determined by the CEO) and that natural justice has been observed;

        The matter is, or has been, managed by the Queensland Ombudsman;




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        The affected person fails to provide sufficient information about the complaint,
         or in some way inhibits the investigation (e.g. by failing to respond to requests
         for information within a reasonable time period or by refusing to give access
         to a property in relation to a complaint investigation);

        The complaint is considered by the CEO or appointed officer to be frivolous,
         trivial, vexatious, or lacks substance or credibility; or

        The CEO determines that dealing with the complaint would be an unjustifiable
         use of resources.

6 Recording and reporting complaints

Complaints Officers must keep full and accurate records of complaints in accordance
with the provisions of the Local Government Act, Council’s information management
policies and any relevant information storage and retrieval systems.

The details of complaints must be reported in the annual report in accordance with
the provisions of the Local Government Act.




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