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ASQA is introducing a suite of procedural improvements

19 July 2016

As part of the move to increasingly risk-based and proportionate regulation, ASQA is introducing a suite of procedural improvements relating to how we conduct audits and make decisions.

These include:

  1. Earlier publication of regulatory decisions (as previously advised)
  2. Changes to ASQA’s decision-making processes
  3. Changes to the audit process
  4. Development of a new audit model.

This approach seeks to streamline regulatory processes for the majority of registered training organisations, while more effectively targeting the small percentage of providers that consistently exhibit poor outcomes, practices and behaviours.

Earlier publication of regulatory decisions

The revised policy regarding publication of ASQA’s regulatory decisions was implemented from 1 July 2016. ASQA now publishes information about decisions to www.asqa.gov.au shortly after the decisions are made (rather than after all appeal options have been exhausted).

To ensure procedural fairness, information published about ASQA’s regulatory decisions includes a summary of the review options available to providers.

Changes to ASQA’s decision-making processes

From 1 August 2016, if ASQA identifies highly concerning non-compliance by a provider, ASQA’s Commissioners will make the decision jointly.

Joint decisions will be identified through analysis of a range of factors, including:

  • how serious the impact of the decision may be on the VET industry and its reputation, and
  • whether ASQA has identified serious concerns about the provider in question.

If a decision is made jointly by ASQA’s Commissioners, a review of that decision can only be made by an external authority (such as the Administrative Appeals Tribunal). In these cases, the provider cannot apply for an internal ASQA reconsideration of the decision.

Changes to the audit process

Process for responding to non-compliance found at a compliance audit

The term ‘compliance audit’ refers to post-initial audits, or audits undertaken on the basis of identified risk (including those undertaken as the result of complaints).

When providing a compliance audit report, if ASQA has found non-compliance, we may either:

  • issue the RTO with a written direction, requiring you to take a certain action
  • issue the RTO with a ‘Notice of intent to impose administrative sanction’, or
  • in exceptional circumstances, impose one or more sanctions on the RTO without prior notice.

Process for issuing a notice of intent after a compliance audit

At present, if an RTO is found non-compliant at a compliance audit, in most instances ASQA will give the RTO the opportunity to submit rectification evidence before issuing a notice of intent.

From 1 August 2016, if a compliance audit identifies highly concerning non-compliances, your RTO may be issued with a ‘Notice of intent to impose administrative sanction’. You may then have a period of up to 20 working days to respond to the notice and submit any supporting evidence before a decision is made.

This change aligns ASQA’s approach to compliance audits with the existing approach to application audits.

RTOs’ rights to natural justice before a final decision to impose a sanction are not affected by this change in approach.

Process for issuing written directions after a compliance or application audit

If ASQA identifies non-compliances that are not considered serious during a compliance or application audit, ASQA may issue the provider with a written direction, requiring it to:

  • address the non-compliances within a specified period, and
  • retain evidence that this has occurred.

In such cases, ASQA may finalise the audit at this point and approve any relevant applications. The RTO is not required to respond to the direction. ASQA will examine the RTO’s compliance with the written direction at a future audit and/or during other regulatory activity.

Development of a new audit model

ASQA is currently developing a more proactive and risk-based audit model that places a much stronger focus on the actual practices and behaviours of providers, with a reduced emphasis on systems and processes. The scope and scale of audits will be informed by a wider range of sources, including data and information received from students, industry and other agencies and ASQA’s profile of each provider.

The new model will take a more holistic view and focus on following the ‘journey’ of a student through their engagement with a provider. Through this model, providers will be more accountable for redressing harm caused by non-compliance.

Implementation of the new model will be staged through the second half of 2016 and early 2017.

More information on ASQA’s revised audit model will be published on www.asqa.gov.au in the coming months.

More information?

Please contact the ASQA Info Line on 1300 701 801, 9.00 am to 7.00 pm (AEST), Monday to Friday, or by emailing enquiries [at] asqa.gov.au.