Code of Conduct Complaints Handling Procedure

ACFID members agree to be bound by the independent, accessible, fair and confidential Code complaints handling process:

  • Members must comply with the complaints process as set out in the Good Practice Toolkit.
     
  • Members must comply with Code of Conduct Committee’s (the Committee) requests for information within set time frames.
     
  • Where a breach of the ACFID Code of Conduct (Code) is confirmed, members will work with the Committee to ensure compliance with the corrective or disciplinary actions that have been determined by the Committee.

This complaint-handling process is essential to the external credibility of any self-regulatory code of practice. The Committee provides an independent mechanism to address a complaint made against an ACFID member which is believed to have breached the Code.

Note that these are not court processes, and while principles of natural justice will be followed, no party has the right to make oral submissions, to a hearing, or to legal representation, nor do the rules of evidence apply.

ACFID's members are required, as part of their compliance with the Code, to have a public complaints mechanism on their website, supported by an effective complaints handling process. This is outlined in the Code of Conduct at Compliance Indicator 7.3.3 (“Members enable stakeholders to make complaints to the organisation in a safe and confidential manner”).

The Code’s complaints-handling mechanism relies firstly on the ACFID member being given the opportunity to receive and manage a complaint in line with their complaints handling processes. The Code’s complaints handling process can be used as an appeal process, should the outcome or process be unsatisfactory.

Here is some guidance as to how the Committee will approach different aspects of the complaints process:

 

Key Principles Informing Complaints Handling

Awareness and accessibility for stakeholders

The Code’s credibility requires that stakeholders in Australia and internationally are aware of and able to readily access the complaints.

process. ACFID will make the points of access to the complaints process prominent on the ACFID website and ensure that ACFID members publicise the availability of this mechanism through their own complaints handling policies.

Independence of process and decision-makers

The Code’s complaints process will be conducted independently of ACFID governance bodies and ACFID member organisations. The Committee is constituted independently of the ACFID Council and Board, and the Committee investigations and deliberations will be conducted separately and confidentially. Members of the Committee will avoid any conflict of interest arising in the course of their consideration of any complaint.

Fairness and responsiveness

The Code’s complaints process will be managed in an efficient way and have regard to the principles of fairness and natural justice. The complaints process will permit all parties reasonable opportunity to provide any information they believe will assist the investigation, and parties will be given an opportunity to respond to information provided by the other party. Parties to the complaint will be advised of the expected timing of each stage of the investigation– noting that the nature and scope of the complaint will determine timing for each individual investigation.

Transparency

Transparent and open complaints processes help to promote confidence in the Code and its self-regulatory effectiveness. Once the complaint process has been completed, complainants and ACFID members are entitled to a written explanation of the reasons for the decision.

Confidentiality for the parties

The complaints process will respect the privacy and confidentiality to which the parties are entitled under the Privacy Act. At all stages of the complaints process, the complaint will be strictly confidential unless and until the complaint has been determined to be a notifiable breach by the Committee. If the Committee believes issues arising from a complaint may have sector-wide significance, the Committee may advise the ACFID CEO and/or President. In some of these cases the Committee might determine that the ACFID member organisation should be named. If so, the member will be advised in advance that they will be identified and the basis upon which the decision to disclose their identity has been made.

Corrective Action

Where an ACFID member has breached the Code, the primary focus for the Committee will be to work with them to improve standards and reduce the risk of recurrence. This will include settling a course of corrective and remedial action with the ACFID member (including through mediation or conciliation) and may include monitoring reports as to progress of implementation.

Where a breach is more serious, or the ACFID member has not responded appropriately, the Committee will consider disciplinary action, which may extend to suspending or revoking the ACFID member’s status as a Code Signatory. Where there is the potential for reputational risk to other ACFID members or serious integrity issues, or for other necessary reasons, the Committee may consider notifying others about the facts of a breach, such as the ACFID Board, the public, and/or the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Complaints Handling Process

This section outlines the procedure for having a complaint addressed by the Committee.

 

Definitions:

ACFID member: A Full ACFID member as listed on the ACFID website member list. Full ACFID members are signatories to the Code. ACFID affiliate members are not Code signatories and therefore are not covered under this definition with regard to this complaints-handling process.

Appeals Officer: an independent decision-maker appointed by the ACFID Board to consider appeals by an ACFID member against an Own Motion Inquiry determination of the Code of Conduct Committee.

ACFID Chief Executive Officer: the chief executive, a person appointed by and accountable to the ACFID Board.

Chair: current Chair of the Code of Conduct Committee.

Complaint: an expression of dissatisfaction about an ACFID member that includes an implicit or explicit expectation of a response and resolution.

Complainant: the person or organisation making the complaint.

Complaint Manager: the ACFID staff member of the Code Secretariat assigned responsibility for handling the Secretariat’s support and management of the complaint.

Enquiry: an expression of dissatisfaction with an ACFID member without an expectation of a response and resolution.

Investigating Team: the members of the Code of Conduct Committee appointed to conduct an investigation into a complaint.

Own Motion Inquiry: an investigation undertaken by the Committee – either in response to a complaint or enquiry, or in response to other information obtained by the Committee (for example an issue about an ACFID member/s in the media).

 

The Procedure

The procedure for having a complaint addressed by the Committee is detailed in “ACFID’s Complaints Handling Procedure”. This includes a flowchart and an explanation of the steps involved.