Part 4: Monitoring and reporting performance information

Ministry of Social Development: How is deals with complaints.

In this Part, we discuss how the Ministry monitors, reviews, and reports performance information about complaints. We describe:

Summary of our findings

Different practices for recording complaints and how they are responded to mean that not all sections can monitor and report performance information about complaints. This means that the Ministry's Leadership Team cannot see the overall picture about complaints.

Collectively, the Ministry cannot report externally about how many complaints it receives and how well it responds to them.

Monitoring complaints in Here is Your Answer

Designated staff members are expected to regularly monitor complaints to ensure that standards are met, with an emphasis on quality, accuracy, and timeliness. Managers assured us that they take this expectation seriously. Our observations support the assurances from managers.

We were told that complaints will be escalated automatically to regional, then national, offices if they are not updated and signed off in HIYA. If complaints come to the attention of the regional office this way, regional office staff will telephone the service centre to ensure that the service centre is managing the complaint appropriately and updating the record.

Most management and oversight of complaints takes place at service centres. Regions have an "umbrella" complaints monitoring function in the regional office. In most instances, regions carry out basic recording and monitoring of the type of complaint and how long it took to "close the complaint".

All regions noted that they regularly discuss complaints at their Executive and Regional Management Team meetings. Some produce region-wide reports. We saw some of these monitoring reports, which can be monthly or quarterly. The reports vary in quality and detail. Following a recent regional review, the reporting process is being improved.

Other monitoring supports the complaints process

Work and Income has an internal risk and assurance system about budgets and human resources. One of the controls in this system is to confirm that complaints are entered into HIYA and managed in keeping with the guidelines. Managers are required to ensure every quarter that this is being done.

Inconsistent monitoring elsewhere

StudyLink's Report Writing Team monitors and provides quarterly reports to StudyLink's Service Delivery Leadership Team. These reports provide the Leadership Team with updates on risks and trends, including the number and types of service complaints. However, there is no information on meeting standards for complaints, including timeliness.

The National Manager Service Development and Support oversees the complaints register for Senior Services National Office. However, no-one uses the information in the register for Senior Services reporting purposes. Similarly, the information that Local Services Managers record separately is not used for reporting.

No Ministry-wide monitoring of and reporting on complaints

Although the sections carry out internal monitoring in varying detail and depth, the Ministry has no Ministry-wide internal reporting on complaints. No team monitors complaints throughout the Ministry and reports these to the Ministry's Leadership Team. This means that the Ministry cannot use Ministry-wide complaints information strategically to monitor any risks and gaps in delivering services.

No external reporting of complaints information

Because the Ministry has no Ministry-wide internal reporting on complaints, it cannot report externally. External reporting serves the interests of public accountability. It provides a way of showing how an organisation is meeting its commitment to service. In its 2012/13 annual report, the Ministry has a section titled "Complaints, reviews and resolution of grievances". We expected this section to report on the number of complaints received and the number resolved, but it did not.

The Ministry explained that another reason for not reporting externally the information it collects was that it wanted to discourage staff from focusing on targets rather than on managing complaints effectively. The Ministry felt that setting targets and reporting externally might discourage staff from recording all complaints.

In our view, the Ministry should consider how it can report externally the number of complaints it receives and resolves. However, performance measures should not encourage unhelpful behaviour.

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