Compliance

ACFID Members commit to being compliant with all aspects of the Code, and to continuously monitor their compliance. Compliance with the Code of Conduct enhances effective development practice. Non-compliance with the Quality Principles and Commitments set out in the Code of Conduct will reflect negatively on the individual organisation and the sector as a whole.

This section outlines the responsibility to be taken by each Member to ensure compliance with the Code of Conduct.

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Compliance with the Code

Members must be compliant with all applicable aspects of the Code. To achieve compliance, Members will need to understand and apply the two key components of the Code:

  • The ACFID Code of Conduct: the 9 Principles and 33 Commitments that lay out the standard of practice to which ACFID Members commit.
  • The Quality Assurance Framework: a separate but linked document that details the Compliance Indicators, Verifiers and Good Practice Indicators for each of the Principles and Commitments of the Code.

Compliance with the Commitments is assessed against the Compliance Indicators as detailed in the Quality Assurance Framework (QAF). Each of the Compliance Indicators has one or more compliance Verifiers. Verifiers are the description of evidence that would substantiate compliance with the Indicator. To demonstrate compliance, Members will have the Verifiers in place, commensurate with the size and nature of their work.

Satisfaction of all Compliance Indicators is necessary to achieve compliance with the Code. To be compliant with the Code, ACFID Members will have the required policies, processes, guidelines and documentation in place appropriate to the size and nature of the organisation and its work. They will also ensure that their policies, processes and guidelines are implemented and subject to regular review.

Responsibility for compliance with the Code rests primarily with ACFID Members who self-assess against the Compliance Indicators. The governing body of each ACFID Member has primary responsibility for verifying compliance with all Compliance Indicators. ACFID undertakes relatively limited external verification in line with this principle of self-regulation.

The Code applies to ACFID Members and their international development and humanitarian programs. As signatories to the Code, ACFID Members certify that all parts of their organisation that are associated with international development and humanitarian initiatives operate in a manner that is compliant with the Code. It should be noted, however, that Code commitments relating to financial reporting apply to the entire legal entity of the ACFID Member.

Members are expected to use all reasonable efforts to support their implementing partners to operate in a manner consistent with the Code of Conduct when delivering aspects of a Member-supported initiative. There are some requirements which Members must extend to partners through MOUs or similar including those relating to child safeguarding, separation of development and non-development activity, financial wrongdoing and complaints handling. These requirements are clearly articulated in the relevant Compliance Indicators and Verifiers. 

Assessment of Compliance

Compliance with the Code is assured through a suite of mechanisms by which ACFID Members are bound. These compliance mechanisms are:

Application for ACFID Membership

  • On application, organisations must complete the Code Self-Assessment process and submit the organisational documentation requested to demonstrate their compliance.
  • On application, the organisation must provide copies of the additional documents that demonstrate membership eligibility and compliance as set out in the Membership Application Guidelines.
  • Organisations must submit their application within 12 months of lodging their initial application.
  • Organisations are entitled to use the ACFID Member logo after they have been approved as interim Members by the ACFID Board

Periodic Assessment

  • A minimum of one in every three years (as notified by ACFID), Members complete a Code Self-Assessment (CSA) and submit requested documents that verify their compliance with selected Compliance Indicators.
    • The CSA includes a declaration of compliance with the Code from the Member’s governing body. ACFID reviews Members’ self-assessment and supporting documentation
    • The CSA process must be completed within 5 months of the conclusion of the Member’s financial year.
    • Members must promptly respond to ACFID regarding any reasonable requests for clarification or additional information.
    • Members must comply with any resulting remedial actions.

 

  • Members’ governing bodies submit their annual and financial reports to ACFID each year. These reports are assessed one in every three years at the same time as the CSA through the Annual Reporting Assessment Process.
    • Annual reports and financial statements (if not included in the annual report) must be provided to ACFID within 5 months of the Member’s financial year end.
    • Members must promptly respond to ACFID regarding any reasonable requests for clarification or additional information.
    • Members must comply with any resulting remedial actions.

 

  • On the years that Members are not required to complete a CSA, they must complete an exceptions report, which notes any exceptions to compliance that occurred during the previous year, and outlines actions undertaken to ensure that compliance is met.
    • The exceptions report must be provided to ACFID within 5 months of the Member’s financial year end.

Spot checks

  • ACFID’s ongoing assessment of risk identifies any areas of potential non-compliance that may be detrimental to the interests of ACFID, its Membership or the Code.
  • ACFID undertakes spot checks of compliance in these areas as needed
  • This process includes checks of websites undertaken during emergency appeals.
  • Members must comply with requests for additional information to verify compliance as a result of these checks.
  • Members must comply with any resulting remedial actions.

Non- compliance

In the event of non-compliance, the Member must submit a plan that outlines how they will become compliant within a time frame of up to twelve months, or sooner if the area of non-compliance is considered higher risk. The Member must re-submit any required documentation at the end of that period. The onus is on the Member to submit supporting documentation and ensure compliance within that period. If a Member does not achieve compliance within that period, a set of sanctions may be implemented. These sanctions extend to the suspension and revocation of Code signatory status.

Members will notify ACFID if they become aware of major transgressions against the Code in their own organisation or make a complaint to the Code of Conduct Committee of major transgressions by other Members.

ACFID will publicise any suspension or revocation of signatory status.

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.