Wateraid Australia Complaints Policy


Last updated July 2019.

  1. Policy Statement
    1. This policy is intended to ensure that we handle complaints fairly, efficiently and effectively.
    2. This policy provides guidance to all staff (paid and volunteers), contractors, other entities, receiving or managing complaints from the public and supporters made to or about us, beneficiaries and partners in the country programs where we work, regarding our programs, communications, fundraising, services and staff, and people who wish to make a complaint on the key principles and concepts of our complaint management system.
    3. The policy applies equally to country programs managed directly by WaterAid Australia, and programs funded by WaterAid Australia but implemented by other WaterAid Federation members.
    4. WaterAid Australia is committed to ensuring the accessibility of its Complaints Policy, procedures and systems for making a complaint, across the breadth of our work.
    5. WaterAid Australia strives to uphold the highest standards of excellence in all that it does but recognises that this cannot always be the case. When we make a mistake we want and need to be informed. We will use the information to endeavour to put things right and to help us to become more effective.
    6. This policy should be read in conjunction with WaterAid’s Whistleblower’s Policy, Child Safeguarding Policy and Code of Conduct, WaterAid’s Global Code of Conduct, and Global procedure for reporting malpractice breaches to the Global Code of Conduct.
  2. Definitions
    1. A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction about the standards of service, actions or lack of action by WaterAid Australia or its staff, volunteers or anybody directly involved in the delivery of our work. It is a criticism that implicitly or explicitly expects a response or is legally required.
    2. The Complainant. A complaint can be made by any supporter, partner organisation, community or individual with whom we work or any member of the public whether an individual, company or other entity in Australia or anywhere else in the world. Any of these people or entities is hereafter referred to as the “Complainant”.
    3. The subject matter of complaints can include the following (which is not an exhaustive list):
      1. Exploitation or abuse of children, vulnerable adults or any other person
      2. Misuse of funds or fraud (including terror financing)
      3. Misconduct (including sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment) by an individual involved in the work of WaterAid Australia, including employees, volunteers, and contractors of WaterAid Australia, partner organisations or other stakeholders
      4. Concern from someone with whom we work about the quality of program delivery
      5. Concern from a member of the public or supporter about a particular fundraising approach or campaign
    4. A complaint has to be about an action for which WaterAid Australia is responsible or is within our sphere of influence.
    5. A complaint is not:
      1. A general query about WaterAid Australia’s work
      2. A request for information
      3. A contractual dispute
      4. A request to amend records e.g. to correct an address, cancel a donation
      5. A request to unsubscribe from a WaterAid Australia ‘service’ e.g. a newsletter or email.
  3. Principles
    1. Accessibility. Complainants should be able to make a complaint as easily as possible: written correspondence, email, telephone, verbally, via a third party, etc. We are committed to making communication with us as easy as possible.
    2. Timeliness. WaterAid Australia commits to acknowledge complaints within 5 working days and aims to resolve complaints within 14 days of receipt. In the event that a complaint cannot be resolved within this timeframe the complainant will be informed about the progress made to date and when they can expect to receive a response. We will assess and prioritise complaints in accordance with the urgency and /or seriousness of the issues raised. If a matter concerns an immediate risk to safety or security the response will be immediate and escalated appropriately.
    3. We are committed to managing people’s expectations, and will inform them as soon as possible of the following:
      1. the complaints process
      2. the expected timeframes for our actions
      3. the program of the complaint and key reasons for any delay
      4. their likely involvement in the process and
      5. the possible or likely outcome of their complaint
    4. To enable a thorough investigation, complaints should be made within a reasonable time following the relevant incident. In exceptional circumstances WaterAid Australia may be able to respond to a complaint that is older, although the passage of time may make it harder to resolve the complaint satisfactorily.
    5. Confidentiality. We will protect the identity of people making complaints where this is practical and appropriate. Personal information that identifies individuals will only be disclosed or used by us as permitted under the relevant privacy laws, secrecy provisions and any relevant confidentiality obligations. Confidentiality also applies to any sensitive verbal or written information recorded in the course of the complaint handling process.
    6. People centred approach: The interests of participants/beneficiaries, partners and other stakeholders are foremost in our approach to complaints handling. We will take into account cultural and gender sensitivities to ensure that complaints are handled appropriately.
    7. Right to appeal. Complainants who have launched a well-founded complaint and who are unsatisfied with WaterAid Australia’s response to that complaint have the right to appeal. Appropriate appeal processes are outlined in the documents published with this policy.
    8. After an Appeal. After the internal appeal, there is no further internal process. You may however still contact our peak body ACFID. Outside of Australia, we will notify you if there is an external procedure, but in any event you may contact ACFID.
    9. Mutual Respect. WaterAid will address each complaint with integrity and in an equitable, objective and unbiased manner. We are committed to being accessible and responsive to all people who approach us with feedback or complaints. At the same time our success depends on:
      1. our ability to do our work and perform our functions in the most effective and efficient way possible
      2. the health, safety and security of our staff, and
      3. our ability to allocate our resources fairly across all the complaints we receive.
    10. When people behave unreasonably in their dealings with us, their conduct can significantly affect the progress and efficiency of our work. As a result, we will take proactive and decisive action to manage any conduct that negatively and unreasonably affects us and will support our staff to do the same in accordance with this policy.
    11. Objectivity: We will address each complaint with integrity and in an equitable, objective and unbiased manner. We will ensure that the person handling a complaint is different from any staff member whose conduct or service is being complained about. Conflicts of interest, whether actual or perceived, will be managed responsibly. In particular, internal reviews of how a complaint was managed will be conducted by a person other than the original decision maker.
    12. Multiple partners: Where a complaint involves multiple organisations, we will work with the other organisation/s where possible, to ensure that communication with the person making a complaint and/or their representative is clear and coordinated.
    13. Subject to privacy and confidentiality considerations, communication and information sharing between the parties will also be organised to facilitate a timely response to the complaint.
    14. Where a complaint involves multiple areas within our organisation, responsibility for communicating with the person making the complaint and/or their representative will also be coordinated.
    15. Where our services are contracted out, we expect contracted service providers to have an accessible and comprehensive complaint management system. We take complaints not only about the actions of our staff but also the actions of our service providers.
  4. Other WaterAids.
    1. WaterAid Australia is a member of WaterAid international (www.wateraid.org). There are six other members of the WaterAid international federation: Canada, USA, Sweden and the United Kingdom are full members and India and Japan are associated members. All members are listed on the WaterAid international website.
    2. This policy covers WaterAid Australia only. The policy does however apply when we provide funding to programs managed by other Federation members.
    3. Furthermore, if we become aware of any complaint received which relates to WaterAid international or another WaterAid member we will notify the complainant accordingly and forward to the other WaterAid for attention.
  5. Complaints Management
    1. 5.1 The five key stages in our complaint management system are set out below
      Complaints Management Process
      1. Receive
      2. Acknowledge
      3. Assess and investigate
      4. Determine outcome
      5. Close complaint: document and report as necessary
  6. Where and how to complaints can be made
    1. We are able to receive complaints verbally in person or by telephone and in writing by post, email, or online via our website.
    2. Complaints mag be made by a friend or advocate of the complainant on their behalf.
    3. In countries where we work, complaints can be made through our partners or in-country staff. We work with them to ensure that accessible ways to make complaints are made clear and that complaints are handled in line with our policies.
    4. We ensure that our complaints handling policies and procedures are shared with partners and ensure that the information is clear and easily understandable. We work with partners to ensure that all stakeholders can make complaints in a safe and confidential manner. Dissemination and sharing of the complaints procedures, and underlying principles and purpose, will be undertaken upon inception of new projects with all implementing Partners.
    5. Publicly displayed information in local languages will provide a confidential complaints handling contact point, mailing address and email address at all registered offices of WaterAid in country programs. Handout material in local languages with a summary of the complaints handling policy and confidentiality arrangements will be available upon request at each registered country office.
    6. Complaints can be made through the following channels:
      1. Website: www.wateraid.org/au using the Contact link on our website
      2. Email: [email protected]
      3. Mail: WaterAid Australia, Level 9, 176 Wellington Parade, East Melbourne
        Victoria, 3002, Australia
      4. Phone: +61 1300 858 022
      5. In person: If the complaint cannot be made by phone, email, or post, it may be made directly to a WaterAid Australia staff member.
      6. Country Office: In countries where WaterAid Australia operates country programs, complaints can be made in person to the Country Representative, or submitted by mail to the Country Office. Country Programs will develop appropriate procedures to implement this policy.
  7. How we will learn from complaints
    1. We will ensure that all relevant personnel are informed of the outcomes of complaints and the implications for our programs, processes, at all times and with our best endeavours.
    2. We will log and monitor all serious complaints and results of such complaints and this information will be brought, regularly, to the attention of appropriate senior managers in order that we learn from what we do and how we do it. This information will not necessarily be available to the public.
    3. WaterAid Australia will keep this policy under review and an annual report will be produced on its implementation for submission to WaterAid Australia’s Finance, Audit and Risk Management (FARM) Committee of the Board.
    4. This report will also include consideration and comment on the application of lessons learned from previous years’ reports.
    5. WaterAid Australia’s Chief Executive (as owner of this policy) will convene a regular meeting with the Senior Management Team to decide how WaterAid Australia will apply lessons learned.