Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Internal Ombudsman is Council's complaints co-ordinator.

Facebook post 11 May 2020: The Internal Ombudsman is Council's complaints co-ordinator.

The Internal Ombudsman coordinate a second level review of complaints often reflecting poor systems and processes (due to the amalgamation) which are difficult to navigate. These are often resolved internally. Whether processes are improved when the complaints co-ordinator is remote (they sit at Cumberland Council) Both Cumberland and Parramatta were amalgamated.

The Shared Part of the Internal Ombudman Share Service, is that Inner West Council shares funding of the Complaints Co-ordinator Role with Cumberland and Parramatta Councils - this is overseen by the GMs of the three councils.

The Complaints Co-ordinator also co-ordinates Code of Conduct Complaints and farms these out to Investigators from a panel approved by Council and recommended by SSROC. Codes of Conduct are a more formal complaints process which relate to the behavior of councillors and staff. The Code and Procedures for these are overseen by the Office of Local Government.

As Monica Wangmann has pointed out in the post - the Independent Umpire is the NSW Ombudsman which reports to NSW Parliament. Under the NSW Ombudsmans guidelines the Inner West Council's Complaints Handling Process should have been reviewed last November.

There is also NCAT, ICAC and others.

NOM on 11 May 2021 agenda - the relevant Acting Council Officers have provided comments. The review was due last November.
Item No: C0521(1) Item 34

Subject: Notice of Motion: Review of Inner West Council Complaints Handling

From: Councillor Marghanita Da Cruz
THAT Council:

1. Review the Management of Complaints including accessibility of information on website, reporting, performance, the Internal Ombudsman Shared Service and alignment with the NSW Ombudsman's best practice guidelines and the Procedures for Handling Code of Conduct Complaints;

2. Report the outcome of the review to Councillors at the July ordinary Council meeting.


In accordance with the NSW Ombudsman's guidance, the Complaints Handling Policy was due to be reviewed last November.

"This policy is subject to regular review at a maximum interval of two years. Any recognised change to relevant legislation, directives or guidelines issued by agencies including the NSW Ombudsman and the Office of Local Government will instigate an immediate review of this policy to reflect any changes." viewed 20 April 2021 Source: Complaints Handling Policy (adopted27/11/2018) https://www.innerwest.nsw.gov.au/ArticleDocuments/955/Complaints%20Handling%20Policy.pdf.aspx

With regard to the use of "Internal Ombudsman" The Association of Ombudsman have raised concerns "It is a contradiction in terms, for example, to describe a body as an ‘internal ombudsman’ or to apply the description to a body that is subject to the direction of a government minister or industry body.//The Australian and New Zealand Ombudsman Association (ANZOA) is concerned to ensure appropriate use of the term Ombudsman. Our view is that a body should not be described as an Ombudsman unless it complies with six essential criteria addressing independence, jurisdiction, powers, accessibility, procedural fairness and accountability./" Source: ESSENTIAL CRITERIA FOR DESCRIBING A BODY AS AN OMBUDSMAN Policy statement endorsed on 5 February 2010 by the Executive Committee of the Australian and New Zealand Ombudsman Association (ANZOA) - viewed 20 April 2021 https://www.ombudsman.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/31434/ANZOA-Essential_criteria_for_describing_a_body_as_an_Ombudsman.pdf

Officer’s Comments:

Comment from Acting Governance Manager:

Council officers are commencing a review of the Complaints handling policy with the Internal Ombudsman Shared Service. A draft Policy will be tabled at the Ordinary Council meeting in July 2021 prior to going on public exhibition.

Comment from Acting Internal Ombudsman

The Internal Ombudsman Shared Service (IOSS) operates in accordance with the IOSS Governance Charter, available on Inner West Council’s website: https://www.innerwest.nsw.gov.au/about/the-council/internal-ombudsman. Council’s website also contains information on what the IOSS will and will not investigate, information on how to make a complaint, confidentiality and privacy provisions, our contact details and further fact sheets about the service. The IOSS Charter, Fact Sheet and publicly available information on Council’s website follows the NSW Ombudsman’s Building a best practice complaint management system. The role of the IOSS is also incorporated into Council’s Complaint Handling Policy and the IOSS liaises regularly with Council officers to facilitate the effective and efficient management of complaints.

The IOSS, an impartial service working across the three member Councils, operates out of a stand-alone office in Auburn, physically separate from all other Council buildings. The IOSS reports to the IOSS Management Committee and issues an Annual Report on the performance of the IOSS, also available on Council’s website.

The IOSS will assist Council to review and update Council’s Complaint Handling Policy and review and report on Council’s Complaints Handling practices and processes.

In relation to Code of Conduct complaints, the Internal Ombudsman is delegated as Council’s Complaints Coordinator pursuant to Council’s adopted Code of Conduct and The Procedures for the Administration of the Model Code of Conduct. Any Code of Conduct complaints are managed pursuant to the relevant statutory requirements and there are review mechanisms available under the Procedures if there are identified concerns with this process.

Source Agenda 11 May 2021

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