Why the public sector must learn to love complaints: Ombudsman

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Victorian public sector agencies should welcome complaints from members of the public as free feedback that can help them improve their service, Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said today.

Tabling the Complaints: Good Practice Guide for Public Sector Agencies in the Victorian Parliament, Ms Glass said that public sector agencies should avoid adopting a defensive posture towards complaints from the public, which can lead to a corrosive loss of faith in government services by citizens.

“Complaints should be welcomed. Every complaint should be addressed with the respect it deserves, and the prevailing attitude should be to resolve the complaint as quickly as possible. That might be through action to address the problem, or in appropriate cases with an apology or an explanation why a decision was made and will not be changed,” said Ms Glass.

The Complaints: Good Practice Guide for Public Sector Agencies provides practical advice for public agencies that will allow them to:

  • enable members of the public to make complaints
  • respond to those complaints in a timely and effective manner
  • learn from the issues raised in the complaints
  • improve their systems for taking, engaging with and resolving complaints from members of the public.

Assisting the public sector to use complaints it receives from the public to drive improvements in wider public administration is a key goal for the Victorian Ombudsman.

Such a cultural shift must be driven from the highest level of management in the public sector.

“I encourage all public sector leaders to learn to love their complaints, and to use this guide to promote best practice within their agencies. The attitude to complaints set by the head of a department or agency will determine whether or not their staff use complaints as a real opportunity to increase public confidence and drive improvement,” said Ms Glass.

Report: Complaints: Good Practice Guide for Public Sector Agencies

Media contact: Mob 0409 936 235 | vomedia@ombudsman.vic.gov.au