Queensland councils to clean up complaints process

The Queensland Ombudsman has made several recommendations to improve the way local government handles complaints.
The report, released by the Queensland Ombudsman, reviewed the complaints management systems of 57 local councils and was tabled in Queensland Parliament in mid-September.
In the report the Ombudsman looked at several recommendations to improve the way local governments handle complaints, made throughout the development of the recent Local Government Act 2009.
The Act states local government must adopt a process for resolving administrative action complaints. It also defines the terms ‘administrative action complaint’ and ‘affected person’.
The complaints management process under the 2009 Act must capture all complaints handled by a local government.
This includes complaints immediately resolved by frontline staff or call centre staff, complaints made anonymously and complaints that require further investigation and consideration by local government staff.
The 1993 Act concept of undertaking ‘preliminary procedures’ before an affected person may make a complaint is now redundant and instead all complaints, regardless of nature or apparent seriousness, are to be captured and recorded as part of the complaints management process.
The 2009 Act requires occasional reviewing and reporting on the effectiveness of the complaints management process to identify business improvement opportunities and also makes the local government more accountable to the community by requiring them to publish details of their complaints management policy and procedures on their website.
The legislation doesn’t provide a high level of detail or prescription regarding the requirements of the complaints management process.
In accordance with the Ombudsman’s recommendations, the legislation gives local councils the flexibility to determine the specifics of their complaints management process to best suit individual administrative circumstances, as long as certain basic requirements are considered.
Councils have until July 1, 2011 to make any amendments to their current complaints management process, or if desired, to develop a new complaints management process under the new legislation.

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