THE COMPLAINTS PROCESS
Engineering New Zealand manages a process for resolving concerns and complaints that cover our members and Chartered Professional Engineers (CPEng). Our process helps both engineers and the industry as a whole to improve, and it gives the public more confidence and trust in the industry.
Resolved through early resolution process
SAY HELLO TO PETER MCCOMBS DISTFENGNZ
DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE CHAIR
The engineering profession has set clear standards that we must adhere to. The complaints process makes sure that we hold ourselves to our word. It helps engineers and the industry to constantly improve practice, it censures where appropriate, and it gives the public confidence and trust in the profession.
"If anyone raises a concern, we take it seriously and respond appropriately. Engineering New Zealand doesn’t take sides. We remain objective and we make fair and balanced decisions."
In 2016, we revamped the process, making three major changes. In 2017, we’ve been refining and embedding this process.
First, we put the focus on working with both complainants and engineers early on in the process – to clarify expectations and define the parameters of the concerns. We also make sure that all parties have an opportunity to engage in the process and put relevant information forward before any key decisions are made.
Second, we now put greater emphasis on assessment, triage and early resolution. This involves assessing how we can resolve concerns at an appropriate and proportional level. Our expert team at National Office work with the parties to see if the concerns can be resolved directly between the parties using our early resolution process. We focus on practical and flexible ways for resolving concerns. Most concerns can be resolved this way – our success with early resolution is evident in our 2016/17 stats.
If we can’t resolve something through early resolution, the concerns enter our formal process as a complaint. With the support of our expert in-house legal team, experienced engineers appointed by the Board investigate and prepare detailed reports on each complaint. Where warranted, the matter is heard and considered in a formal hearing before a disciplinary panel. Our disciplinary panels include senior members of the profession together with consumer representatives. Disciplinary orders range from censure or a fine through to suspension or cancellation of membership or registration as a Chartered Professional Engineer.
The third major change we have made is in the greater support we provide to our panels throughout the formal processes to make sure their decisions are robust, analytically sound, and consistent. Our decisions are clear, understandable, reasoned, and withstand scrutiny – the two appeals lodged in 2016/17 were both dismissed by the Chartered Professional Engineers Council, the independent body that considers appeals against our decisions.
Engineers are under more public scrutiny than ever, and we’re committed to ensuring our engineers are equipped to deal with concerns when they arise, to avoid them escalating unnecessarily. We’ve developed a toolkit for our engineers to guide them through these processes, and this is available on our website. We’re also committed to ensuring the profession learns from complaints, and that lessons feed into our quality improvement processes. Our complaints, policy and practice teams are interconnected to make sure this occurs. You may have also seen our regular column in EG magazine, discussing cases, explaining processes, and giving tips for effectively managing complaints.
Complaints are an inevitable part of professional life. We need to adopt a culture that is open, responds professionally, and always try to use them to think about how we can do better next time.
Peter is Director and Chairman of the Traffic Design Group Limited.