Complaint Management in Local Government

A few weeks ago, I listened to a presentation by Victorian Ombudsman, Deborah Glass, about the new Good Practice Guide for Councils and Complaints.

For those involved in local government complaints management (either from a governance or HR perspective) the guide is well worth a read.

One of the key findings of the research regarding complaints in councils – and, for that matter it really applies to any organisation – is that one of the biggest complaints are complaints about how councils deal with complaints! Yes, that’s right, complaints about how complaints are managed.

And this really makes sense.

Often complainants and respondents are most upset about the processes used, the lack (or perceived lack) or transparency, lack of independence, and time the process takes. The process itself can have an adverse psychological effect upon participants, sometimes worse than the issue under investigation itself.

Ms Glass believes that leadership drives improvement in complaints management and that good leadership in this area “values complaints” and “drives culture.” Having a robust, transparent and timely process ultimately adds to a more positive workplace culture and confidence.

Having the foundations of a complaints management system that provides a return on investment depends on a number of areas, including (but definitely not limited to):

  • Enabling complaints

Having effective systems to report (like whistleblower hotlines) and having a culture of continuous improvement through speaking up, and speaking out. Fostering open communication.

  • Effective triaging

Applying consistent and transparent analysis of issues. Not everything needs to be investigated. Is mediation an option? What does the complainant actually want? Does the matter require an external or internal investigator?

  • Responding according to best practice

Providing strict timeframes for investigation and reporting, taking a trauma-informed approach, conducting best-practice, evidence-based and procedurally fair processes.

  • Communication

Effectively communicating with all involved parties, considering welfare and support needs and enforcing confidentiality

All local government entities have to deal with a myriad of different complaints from administrative reviews, planning and development matters, public interest disclosures, bully ing, sexual harassment, misconduct and fraud, procurement, officer conduct… the list goes on.

Having an effective complaints management process in place can save a whole heap of heartache later. 

The Forensix Group are local government complaints management specialists.  We can review your processes, provide specialist investigative advice, support and guidance and independently conduct investigations.

We also offer a specialist, independent governance and complaints management service (called Forensix CMS) as an external, cost-effective way to manage all complaints. For more information about our CMS contact us at info@forensix.com.au or give us a call on 1300 138 467.

And as always, we’re here to chat about any complaint management issues you may have. No obligation. No pressure.

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