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External scrutiny

As a Commonwealth statutory authority, CASA is subject to scrutiny by the Australian Parliament. CASA’s activities may be subject to investigation or consideration by administrative agencies or the courts. In addition, CASA receives informal feedback on its performance through media coverage and complaints from industry or members of the public.

CASA welcomes external scrutiny as a means to confirm what it is doing well, and to identify ways to better meet its obligations and achieve its vision of Safe skies for all.

Parliamentary accountability

CASA prepared to appear at the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee supplementary Budget estimates hearing on 21 October 2019 but was not required to appear.

CASA also prepared to appear before the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee additional estimates hearing on 2 March 2020. CASA was not listed to appear when the final program was released.

Due to the impact of COVID-19, the planned Budget estimates call-back day in April 2020 did not occur.

CASA contributed briefing material for the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications attendance at a Budget estimates spillover hearing on
9 June 2020.

During the reporting period, CASA responded to more than 50 parliamentary questions on notice.

Regulator Performance Framework

The Regulator Performance Framework is an initiative of the Australian Government, setting a common set of performance measures for all Commonwealth regulators to allow for a high-level assessment of performance as a regulator and engagement with stakeholders.

The framework asks regulators to self-assess against six key performance indicators, and to seek external validation of the self-assessment as an avenue for stakeholders to provide feedback on whether the self-assessment results accord with their views of the regulator’s performance. In 2020, CASA agreed to use the Aviation Safety Advisory Panel to provide the external validation, given the breadth of industry representation on the panel.

Due to the impact of COVID-19, CASA’s Regulator Performance Framework report for 2018–19 was completed without external validation and published on the external website on 8 April 2020, within the deadline set by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet was notified that CASA’s report had not been externally validated.

Judicial and administrative decisions

No judicial decisions or decisions of administrative tribunals in 2019–20 affected or may have a significant effect on CASA’s future operations.

Merits reviews and judicial reviews

Certain types of regulatory decisions made by CASA are subject to merits review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). Merits review involves the reconsideration of an administrative decision. On the facts before it, the tribunal decides whether the correct decision (or, where an exercise of discretion was involved, the preferable decision) has been made in accordance with the applicable law.

A person who is the subject of a CASA decision may apply directly to the Federal Court for a review of the decision under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977. In some cases, a decision of the AAT may be reviewed in the Federal Court.

Tables B.10 to B.12 in Appendix B provide details of AAT merits reviews of CASA regulatory decisions, the categories of CASA decisions appealed in the AAT, and applications to the Federal Court for judicial review of regulatory decisions.

CASA’s legal costs for 2019–20 are outlined in Table B.21 in Appendix B.

Investigations

During 2019–20, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner conducted an investigation relating to a complaint that CASA had breached the Privacy Act 1988 in disclosing information to the complainant’s prospective employer. The matter was settled between CASA and the complainant on 2 April 2020, without the Office having to conclude its investigation.

In relation to a different person and matter, an investigation was initiated by the Commonwealth Ombudsman in relation to the role that the complainant in that matter alleged CASA had played in the termination of their employment. The investigation remained ongoing at 30 June 2020.

Coronial inquiries

Coroners investigate deaths, identify other injuries and make recommendations that may prevent deaths and non-fatal injuries.

Coroners’ findings vary from brief descriptions about the place of death, the identity of the deceased and the cause of death through to detailed descriptions of the circumstances leading to the death and detailed recommendations about what might be done to prevent similar deaths and injuries in the future. Recommendations of this kind may deal with CASA’s regulatory administration of aviation safety.

CASA participated in two coronial inquests in 2019–20. Coronial findings have been handed down in those matters and, in each case, the coroner made a number of recommendations to CASA concerning the conduct and regulation of skydiving activities.

Table B.13 in Appendix B provides details of coronial inquiries that involved CASA in each year from 2017–18 to 2019–20. Table B.14 refers to CASA’s disposition of coronial findings related to CASA in 2019–20.

Industry Complaints Commissioner

The Industry Complaints Commissioner (ICC) provides an accessible and transparent mechanism for reviewing complaints about the actions, decisions and services provided by CASA staff, delegates and authorised persons. Reporting to CASA’s Board, the ICC considers complaints to establish whether CASA’s administrative actions were wrong, unjust, unlawful, discriminatory or unfair.

Governance arrangements support the ICC complaints-handling process and set out how identified deficiencies in CASA’s processes and procedures are identified and resolved. The governance arrangements are periodically reviewed and were last updated in April 2019.

Complaints received

The ICC received a total of 86 complaints in 2019–20, including:

  • 27 simple complaints, which were clearly outside the ICC’s jurisdiction or not related to CASA
  • 42 standard complaints, which represented the majority of cases received
  • 17 complex complaints, which required expert advice, related to novel issues or presented a wide range of questions.

The volume of complaints was lower than the 2018–19 total of 148; however, the 2018–19 statistics were inflated by multiple complaints made by two individuals.

Figure 13 shows complaints received each year from 2017–18 to 2019–20 by the subject matter of the complaint.

Figure 13 Complaints by subject matter, 2017–18 to 2019–20 Figure 13 - shows complaints received each year from 2017–18 to 2019–20 by the subject matter of the complaint.

Note: Figures do not include simple complaints that are outside the ICC’s jurisdiction or not related to CASA.

Resolved complaints

In 2019–20, the ICC resolved 90 complaints (including cases on hand at 1 July 2019), 62 of which were classified as either standard or complex.

Figure 14 shows the breakdown of complaints resolved in 2019–20 by the business group about which the complaint was made.

Figure 14 Complex and standard complaints resolved, by division, 2019–20 Figure 14 - shows the breakdown of complaints resolved in 2019–20 by the business group about which the complaint was made.

Timeliness of processing

Of the 86 complaints received in 2019–20, the ICC processed:

  • 100 per cent of the simple cases within the target of five days (average 1.1 days)
  • 90 per cent of the standard cases within the target of 30 days (average 11.4 days)
  • 100 per cent of the complex cases within the target of 90 days (average 44.7 days).

Table 13 shows a comparison of timeliness in each year from 2017–18 to 2019–20.

Table 13 Complaints processed within timeliness targets, 2017–18 to 2019–20

Type of complaint

2017–18
%

2018–19
%

2019–20
%

Simple cases within 5 days

100

100

100

Standard cases within 30 days

74

93

90

Complex cases within 90 days

74

65

100

Complaint prevention strategies

The ICC has the power to make recommendations to CASA about individual cases and systemic issues. Recommendations are made with the aim of reducing future complaints and ensuring best practice.

In 2019–20, the ICC made nine recommendations of which eight were accepted by CASA with one still under consideration. The recommendations included partial refunds for regulatory service tasks; changes to aviation exam conditions; the amendment of policy manuals to reflect CASA practice; and the withdrawal of conditions imposed on medical certificates.