Quality Assurance and Systems Manuals – A Must
By Professor Kim Lovegrove & Justin Cotton
6th May 2011
Any building surveying operation, be it council or private certifier, or be it Victoria, NSW, the ACT or Queensland, is well advised to have a systems quality assurance manual that provides the blue-print for quality assurance and probity compliance. The manual or policy protocol should be a risk management medium and should always be a work in progress. Reason being one learns on the job and the maintenance of best practice requires adherence to the latest in good practice.
Our law firm for instance has a policy manual designed to ensure that all lawyers and admin comply with quality systems and the Legal Practice Act. The manual is updated annually and any useful practice note or new risk management mantra invariably finds its way into the manual.
Likewise building surveying operations should have a protocol instrument that is designed to keep all staff out of trouble, a template that is designed to ensure that all staff apply uniformly ethical criteria to the discharge of their statutory obligations. There are a number of companies and some councils that have developed their own procedures manuals, and we have indeed been briefed from time to time to vet and improve the probity component of such a manual.
Having been a chair of a disciplinary body Kim Lovegrove (the BPB in Victoria) can attest to the fact that such manuals are well regarded by disciplinary jurisdictions and moreover if per chance there has been a slip up, regard is had to whether there has been any change in systems to effect overhaul and systemic rectification. Slips can be diagnostic. The prognosis however will not be good if the infringer does not change a pattern or a system that gave rise to the problem. This is sure to attract the ire of the likes of the NSW and Victorian disciplinary tribunals.
When a disciplinary respondent is able to tender an updated systems manual and the manual references a new system that was implemented to overhaul a practice that attracted disciplinary scrutiny, such evidence goes a long way in mitigation. Decision makers are always looking for evidence of change. It is not good e enough for the respondent to volunteer that the experience was sobering and much has been learnt from it or the problem is not likely to occur again. Decision makers want proof of change, they need evidence that there has been an epiphany, a work place revolution of sorts and for fear of labouring the point the manual will go a long way to achieving this.
By developing and regularly updating policy and procedures manuals and by adapting them to remove procedural glitches, one can provide evidence of systemic change, provided the best practice mantras are implemented rather than left to gather dust.