Board Chair's message

Picture of Board Chair Patricia Faulkner AO

Following the first full year of operation of the unitary Board, I am pleased to report as the Independent Chair of Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Limited.

The Board continues to implement new mechanisms to embed the unitary governance model, which is operating well. Committees function well and assist in the discharge of the Board’s duties and responsibilities. During the financial year, the Board held ten meetings; the Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee convened three times; and the People and Nominations Committee both met twice.

A key aspect of the unitary governance changes is the forum for small members. The forums facilitate direct consultation about operational matters, giving those providers the opportunity to relay feedback directly to the TIO.

Three forums have been convened since the new governance structure came into effect. The Board considered in depth a report that followed the forum held in November 2014. A key issue was the cost of TIO services in the face of reduced and changing demand over the past several years.

Significant steps taken to reduce the TIO’s operating costs include the non-replacement of staff, sub-leasing of part of TIO premises and substantial reduction in other expenses. Workforce reductions were also made during the financial year. In May 2015, the Ombudsman advised members of a short term increase in TIO complaint charges to cover redundancy payments. Although some of those costs were met out of the TIO’s cash reserves, recovering some of the costs was necessary through a temporary increase to TIO charges.

The Board considered and approved the budget for 2015-2016, with the objective of reducing TIO costs, achieving a stable TIO price and maintaining and improving services. The budget also foreshadows the completion of important strategic activities such as a review of the TIO funding model and transitioning information technology off-premises. It provides for the completion of the review of dispute resolution processes and TIO’s structured learning program.

The Board congratulates and thanks Simon Cohen for his invaluable contribution over five years as the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. Simon’s tenure was marked by significant achievements as well as incredible change within the Ombudsman’s office and the telecommunications sector. Through Simon’s leadership, significant benefits have flowed to Australian consumers of telecommunications services. Simon took up a senior role in the Victorian government in September 2015 and the Board wishes him every success in his new endeavours. A search and recruitment exercise is being undertaken to identify a high calibre candidate to succeed Simon in the significant role of Ombudsman.

The Board thanks Diane Carmody for her commitment and enthusiasm as Deputy Ombudsman and Acting Ombudsman. We also thank the TIO Executive and the dedicated TIO staff for their valuable contributions throughout the year.

In February 2015, the Board welcomed Gordon Renouf, CEO, Ethical Consumers Australia and David Epstein, Vice President, Corporate and Regulatory Affairs, SingTel Optus, who were appointed as Directors in February 2015. The Board thanks Chris Dodds and Michael Elsegood for their long service to the TIO, Chris as a member of the TIO Council and Board, and Michael as a member of the Board.  Both made significant contributions to the TIO and retired as part of the transition process under the company’s new Constitution.

I also extend my sincere thanks to my fellow Directors for their diligence and professionalism throughout the year and I look forward in working with them in 2015-2016.

Patricia Faulkner
Independent Chair