Who can make a complaint?
- The VCEC accepts complaints from a directly affected person or business, as well as from industry or community groups if they believe they have evidence that a Victorian State or Local Government business is not complying with the Competitive Neutrality Policy.
Can I discuss my possible complaint before formally lodging it?
- Yes, the VCEC recommends that potential complainants discuss their complaint to help them define the issues that may require investigation.
Are all complaints investigated?
- The Victorian Government’s Competitive Neutrality Unit (located within the VCEC) receives many inquiries about competitive neutrality and possible breach of policy. Some inquires will result in the lodgement of formal complaint where the issue relates to Victorian State or Local Government business activities. Complaints must be lodged on the CN Complaint Proforma.
- The VCEC will investigate all CN complaints unless it concludes they are frivolous, vexatious, not made in good faith or do not warrant investigation having regard to all the relevant circumstances. If the VCEC does not proceed with an investigation, it will provide written advice to the complainant outlining the reasons for its decision.
- Some inquires may relate to Trade Practices (which should be raised with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, www.accc.gov.au), purchasing by State government entities (which can be raised with the Ombudsman, www.ombudsman.vic.gov.au), local government (which should be raised with Local Government Victoria, in the Department of Planning & Community Development www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/localgovernment/ or government grants (which should be raised with the relevant department).
- Some inquiries may relate to the activities of government businesses of the Commonwealth, other State or Territory Governments. Inquirers are referred to the complaint unit within the relevant jurisdiction.
Will the Government business know who made the complaint?
- It is desirable for the complainant to seek to resolve their concerns with the government business directly. The VCEC encourages an open process as this will often be the most efficient and effective way to resolve the issues.
- However, will be circumstances where complainants may have legitimate concerns about making their identity known to the Government business. Issues of confidentiality and discretion should be raised in the first instance with the VCEC’s staff who will provide advice on making a confidential complaint.
How much does it cost to lodge a complaint?
- There is no charge to lodge a competitive neutrality complaint.
Is the investigation process independent?
- The VCEC is an independent Commission that reports to the Treasurer. The reports of its investigations are published on its website.
- The VCEC will abide by principles of procedural fairness and will investigate all complaints fairly, independently and rigorously and will come to a finding on the basis of the best available information.
Do I need to lodge a formal complaint?
- Yes. Under the Victorian Government’s Competitive Neutrality Policy, the VCEC cannot initiate complaints on its own account. A pro-forma for complainants to complete is on the VCEC website.
Do I have to provide evidence information supporting my complaint?
- Yes. The VCEC needs to ensure it is not devoting resources to vexatious or frivolous complaints.
- Provision of industry knowledge derived from complainants, in addition to the information provided on the complaint proforma, often helps the VCEC to investigate some industry specific issues effectively. This often requires only a minimal amount of your time and assistance.
What happens after an investigation is complete?
- The VCEC provides its report and recommendations to the government business and the complainant. Where the government business is not compliant with Competitive Neutrality, the report will outline what actions the government business needs to take to ensure compliance.
- The report is provided to the Treasurer (as Minister responsible for National Competition Policy) and released on the VCEC website.
Is the government business required to follow the VCECs recommendations?
- The Government is a signatory to the inter-governmental Competition Principles Agreement where, among other things, all Governments agreed to implement competitive neutrality. Victoria has never incurred a penalty for breaches of competition policy on grounds of competitive neutrality, but in the past, another State had its Competition Payments from the Commonwealth Government reduced for a CN breach.
Can I get compensation if the government business is in breach of Competitive Neutrality?
- The Victorian Government’s Competitive Neutrality Policy provides no provision for compensation or termination of contractual arrangements where a breach of the Competitive Neutrality policy is found.
- However, if the Government accepts the VCEC’s recommendations, the government business will be need to change its practices to ensure it complies with CN in the future.
What is the role of the Ombudsman?
- Ombudsman Victoria (OV) provides a free, impartial and independent service to all Victorians who have a complaint about a Victorian public sector agency. The Ombudsman has jurisdiction over 600 such agencies including 79 local municipal and shire councils, 12 professional boards, universities and government schools, public and private prisons and authorised officers on public transport. OV can also monitor investigations of private agencies contracted to perform activities for government agencies and investigate private agencies associated with the Transport Accident Commission and WorkCover.
- OV promotes fair and reasonable public administration and enhances accountability in the Victorian public sector. Its principal function is to independently enquire into any administrative action taken by a government department, public statutory body or local council and to report the results to complainants, departments, statutory authorities and Parliament, as appropriate.