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Good governance not always the most comfortable road

As with any peak body, Fire Protection Association Australia (FPA Australia) which is Australia’s peak body for the fire protection industry, takes the issue of governance extremely seriously.

Other Asia Pacific organisations we have been in touch with, also regard good governance as the defining factor of an organisation and its relationship with the industry they represent. For FPA Australia, good governance has recently meant having to take difficult decisions affecting its relations with some of its own members.

I’ve spoken in the past about the need for a fully accredited, professional industry and how that is something many of our sister organisations around the Asia Pacific region are also striving to accomplish.

But what’s the use of accreditation if the organisations that administer these systems are not prepared to enforce their own rules and regulations?

Recently, Fire Protection Association Australia (FPA Australia) had to take the difficult decision to cancel the accreditation of a practitioner. A complaint had been made, and needed to be followed up. When the individual repeatedly refused to provide the information that we had lawfully requested, we decided there was no alternative but to suspend and then cancel their accreditation. This led to a lengthy Supreme Court action with all the risk and cost that entails. At stake was our right to enforce a contract entered in to by the individual, the same contract many others in the industry had also signed.

If we as the governing organisation aren’t willing to police and defend our own scheme, including the removal of an individual’s accreditation, there is no point in having an accreditation system. Having taken that action, we could not fail but to defend it.

In the end, the Supreme Court found that the practitioner was bound by a contract lawfully entered into, to provide the requested information and that FPA Australia, as the administrator of the accreditation scheme, had acted appropriately.

Good governance extends in other areas. For example, FPA Australia cannot turn a blind eye if it has information about a matter of public safety even if that is compromising for one of its own members.

Again, a peak body has got to set the standard by which its members and the wider industry will be judged. Upholding public confidence by proactively defending the integrity of the system is expected of us all no matter where we operate.

If any organisation becomes aware of a potentially faulty product, system or the workmanship itself, alerting that customer or company and if necessary the relevant authorities, is a vital step in reducing your own personal risk and liability in case of an event.

The importance of professionally managing and administering accreditation schemes is critical and governments and the public, must have absolute confidence in any organisation which delivers such a scheme. If the scheme is not properly administered and the necessary governance does not exist, including a clear surveillance, auditing and disciplinary process, the existence of a scheme and therefore the necessary benefits it provides, are undermined.

Integrity is hard won and easily lost. Only by being prepared to act, even where that puts us at odds with some of those who pay to be members or are our customers, do organisations like ours truly contribute to the industry and community we serve. 

For more information, go to www.fpaa.com.au

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FPA Australia CEO