02 September 2015

Changing the IPENZ complaints process

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The IPENZ complaints and disciplinary system exists to make sure Chartered Professional Engineers and IPENZ Members are accountable for the work they do.

Over the last few years, the number of complaints we’ve received has increased as external factors, such as the Canterbury earthquakes, have placed the engineering profession in the spotlight. As IPENZ President Andrew Read FIPENZ has said during his President’s visits to IPENZ Branches, “engineers are more visible and are under more scrutiny than ever before”. Therefore, we’ve decided it’s time to change a stressed system by reviewing how we deal with complaints about engineers.

First, we’ll look at changes we can make in the system we already have. At the moment, all matters brought to our attention are automatically considered in the framework of a complaint. We want to take more of a common sense approach by thoroughly exploring a triage system. We’ll look at:

  • Not considering every matter as a complaint
  • Not accepting complaints that are frivolous or vexatious, and outside our jurisdiction
  • Identifying and encouraging intervention options, particularly when competence issues are raised.

It’s important that engineers are held to account, but the current system’s focus on accountability can have a disproportionate impact on them. We want to move towards a process that makes room for improvement, mentoring and professional development. Reviewing our existing process in the short term is our first step towards achieving this.

Central to this project is the relationship between the CPEng Act, CPEng Rules and IPENZ Rules. We expect, in the long term, we’ll need to review these, to make sure the complaints process we use is as efficient and effective as possible. All the work we do will complement – and possibly even inform – the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) work on the occupational regulation of engineers. We will work with MBIE to make sure our updated complaints system and processes will strengthen the reputation of, and public confidence in, New Zealand’s engineering profession.

You’ll start to see these changes happening over the next few months. We’ll be putting together a working group and consulting with you throughout the process. Our aim is to finish this project with a complaints process that does what we need it to do – helps engineers and the industry improve, censures where appropriate and gives the public a positive impression of the profession. We want a complaints process that is robust, accountable and proportionately responsive – so each matter is dealt with in an appropriate way. We want a complaints process that you, our Members, can trust. We’ll keep you up to date on our progress at each stage.