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External scrutiny

The FWO welcomes feedback from customers about their experience with us. The FWO Customer Service Charter outlines our services, what customers can expect from us and what they should do if unsatisfied. The charter is available on the FWO website.

During 2015-16, we introduced a new Feedback and Complaints Management Policy to improve and clarify the process. The policy is available on the FWO website and enables customers to:

  • give feedback – comment about the FWO’s services
  • submit a service complaint – express dissatisfaction with some aspect of our service
  • request a review – express dissatisfaction and ask for a FWO decision to be reassessed.  

If a customer is not satisfied with the way we respond to their feedback, they can contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman external-icon.png.

In 2015-16, there was an 8% increase in the number of requests for review and feedback received, compared with 2014–15. 

Table 17: Operations Group reviews received and finalised
Action 2015-16 2014-15
Received 214 198
Finalised 210 199

Reports relating to operations

The Commonwealth Ombudsman investigates complaints about our actions, and identifies and conducts its own motion investigations on administration matters. In 2015-16, two formal reviews were conducted in relation to the FWO’s operations with no adverse findings made.

Table 18: Commonwealth Ombudsman investigations and findings

2015-16 2014-15
Commonwealth Ombudsman investigations 2 1
Adverse findings 0* 0

* One investigation is ongoing.

The Australian National Audit Office conducts an audit of our financial statements. The 2015-16 Independent Auditor’s Report is available in the FWO Financial Statements.

There were no other reports by the Auditor-General, a parliamentary committee or Commonwealth Ombudsman in relation to the FWO’s operations.

Freedom of information

We received 72 freedom of information (FOI) requests throughout the year, with nine requests outstanding at 30 June 2016. This is five more FOI requests received than in 2014–15.

Customers wishing to access documents held by the FWO are directed to a new Information Access Policy available on the FWO website. The policy details our renewed focus on releasing information when we can, communicating and being responsive, and respecting people’s privacy and confidentiality. Where appropriate, document access was facilitated without a formal FOI request.

Information publication scheme

Entities subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) are required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). This requirement is in Part II of the FOI Act and has replaced the former requirement to publish a section 8 statement in an annual report. Each agency must display a plan on its website showing what information it publishes in accordance with IPS requirements. The FWO’s IPS Agency Plan is available on the FWO website.

The plan sets out what information is published under the IPS, how and to whom it is published, and how FWO otherwise complies with IPS requirements.

Privacy

We are committed to protecting the privacy of individuals who provide their personal information to us. During 2015-16, a new Privacy Breach Guide and awareness program prepared staff on what they should do if there is a privacy breach. Privacy impact assessments were also conducted for new projects and processes.

In 2015-16, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) received one privacy complaint about the FWO. The OAIC did not investigate on the grounds that the FWO had not breached the Privacy Act 1988 (the Privacy Act).

Decisions by the Australian Information Commissioner

The OAIC reviews our compliance with information transparency, FOI and privacy.

The Information Commissioner received one application to review a FOI decision made by the FWO during 2015-16. A third party objected to the release of a document containing information about their business. The OAIC affirmed the FWO’s decision to release the document on the basis that there was no exemption to prevent its release. This matter is currently under review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Another matter, filed with the OAIC in 2014-15, was decided in 2015-16. This involved a request for documents created during the FWO’s confidential mediation processes. The Information Commissioner affirmed the FWO’s decision not to release these documents on the basis they contained confidential material that was exempt under section 45 of the FOI Act.

Judicial decisions and administrative reviews

There were no administrative reviews or findings that affected our operations in 2015-16. There were two significant judicial decisions that did, and will, affect our operations.

In FWO v Step Ahead Security Service Pty Ltd & Anor a new precedent was set. As a result of orders sought by the FWO, the director was ordered to personally back-pay employees $22 779.72. The agency will continue pursuing similar orders as part of our approach to deter employers from winding up a company to avoid back-paying employees.

The FWO was also one of five instructing agencies (with the ACCC, ATO, ASIC and Fair Work Building and Construction) in an appeal by the Commonwealth to the High Court.

In Commonwealth of Australia v Director, Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate & Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) v Director, Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate the High Court unanimously held that parties in civil penalty proceedings may make submissions about the quantum of penalties to be imposed in a case, either on an agreed or separate basis. For future litigations, the FWO can make submissions that communicate our assessment of the respondent’s conduct. This will allow us to advocate for the outcome we consider to be in the best public interest.

Regulator Performance Framework

Under the Regulator Performance Framework, the FWO’s performance was measured against six key performance indicators in 2015-16. These measures involved reducing regulatory burden, communications, risk-based and proportionate approaches, efficient and coordinated monitoring, transparency, and continuous improvement.

Publicly reporting on the agency’s contribution to reducing unnecessary or inefficient regulation will give the community further confidence in the FWO’s work. The report is due in December 2016.