The Environmental Assessment Practitioners Board (EAPB) is committed to ethical and professional practice in all its operations. EAPB as a regulatory environmental assessment practitioners’ body in Botswana, through the Disciplinary Committee (DC), investigates complaints and other matters where an environmental assessment practitioner may have failed to meet standards of professional competence and conduct as outlined in the Code of Conduct (Schedule D of the BEAPA Constitution). The Board is not in the position to address complaints and that fall outside the constitution such as scope of work, timing and payments. In these circumstances the Association suggests that both parties agree on some form of arbitration.
BEAPA COMPLAINTS’ POLICY
RESOLVING COMPLAINTS EARLY
Prior to registering a complaint with the EAPB DC, the complainant (developer) should try to resolve the problem with the concerned environmental assessment practitioner first. Speak with the environmental assessment practitioner about your concerns as most practitioners want to solve problems before they become complaints. Many of the complaints we receive involve problems with communication. These cases can often be resolved at an early stage by the two parties (the complainant/developer and the environmental assessment practitioner). In the event that the two parties are not able to resolve the problem and it is elevated to the Secretariat, who will contact the developer and the environmental practitioner to explore opportunities for resolving the complaint. Early resolution can help repair relationships between the developer and the environmental practitioner, and is generally less time-consuming than a formal investigation.
Section 50 of the EA Act of 2011
Complaints and investigations are confidential unless disciplinary proceedings have begun. Section 50 of the EA Act of 2011 restricts the Board’s legal right to share information obtained as a result of the investigation with the complainant and with the accused Environmental Practitioner. Confidentiality is required even after the complaint has been addressed (without disciplinary proceedings).
Please note that, BEAPA will provide a copy of the complaint to the concerned Environmental Practitioner and afford them the opportunity to reply within the stipulated period.
BEAPA’S DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURE
The purpose of the disciplinary procedure is to set and maintain standards of the Code of Conduct of practitioners within BEAPA and in so doing, ensure that the public and practitioners are treated fairly and consistently. The Disciplinary Procedure (DP) is designed to help and encourage all practitioners to maintain the code of conduct of the Association. These procedures will be used where other interventions have failed to produce the required relief or when the matter of misconduct is sufficiently serious to require formal action.
- Following receipt of complaint, an acknowledgment letter will be sent to the complainant within two working days of receipt of the allegations.
- A registered letter issued under the hand of the Chairperson or Vice Chairperson on behalf of the Board containing a notice of the allegations will be sent to the practitioner in accordance with Part VIII Section 50 (2).
- The practitioner will be required to submit, within 5 working from the date of receipt of the notice, a written response to the allegations disclosing all the facts related to the matter.
- The notice of allegation(s)’ sent to the practitioner will indicate that failure to respond within the stipulated period will lead to an imposition of disciplinary action based on the allegations.
- The written response to the allegations/ compliant from the practitioner will be reviewed by the DC within 5 workings days from the date of receipt of response from the practitioner.
- If the allegations/ evidence of the complaint and supporting information does not point to misconduct, and do no warrant any disciplinary hearing, the file case will be closed and the outcome will be communicated to the practitioner and complainant either through email or by registered mail. The letter will explain the reasons for closing the matter.
- Where after assessing the written allegations made against a practitioner from the complainant as well as the written response from the practitioner, it is found that the practitioner has contravened Section 53 of the Act, an inquiry will be instituted. A summons or formal written notification will be issued to the practitioner within 5 working days indicating the DC’s decision to institute disciplinary proceedings based on the allegations brought before it.
- The notice of institution of inquiry sent to the practitioner will indicate that failure to respond to the summons or formal written notification within the stipulated period will lead to an imposition of penalty as specified in Section 51 of the Act.
- The written notification will include:
a) the specific nature of the issue;
b) the date, time and place of the formal hearing;
c) that the practitioner may be accompanied by a legal practitioner at the hearing;
d) the names of any witnesses and those in attendance at the hearing;
e) a link to the disciplinary policy and procedure and any written statements, reports and other evidence to be considered;
f) that the complainant may provide evidence and/or call witnesses to the hearing, and the need to ensure that any witnesses are aware of the need for confidentiality. The inquiry notification will also include the date, time and place of the hearing.
- If the environmental assessment practitioner fails to attend the hearing without good cause, a decision may be taken in his/her absence based on the information available
- Where appropriate, informal action will be considered before recourse to the formal procedure.
- For formal procedure, the practitioner will be advised of the nature of the complaint and an investigation will normally be undertaken before any decision to hold a disciplinary hearing.
- Before a disciplinary hearing is instituted, the Environmental Practitioner will be provided with written copies of the complaint(s) and other documents supporting the complainant’s compliant.
Misconduct is regarded as a fundamental breach of the Code of Conduct of Practitioners. Activities or actions which constitute misconduct are as indicated in the Code of Conduct of Practitioners, Section 50 (1) and Section 54 of the EA Act and any other Acts which the Board through the DC considers to be as such.
- In addition to the Chairperson, those in attendance at the disciplinary hearing will include members of the DC including the legal practitioner, the Executive Secretary (ES), the registrar in the event that the ES is not available, complainant, practitioner as well as witnesses where appropriate.
- The Chairperson will explain the issue and go through the evidence gathered during the investigation. The practitioner as well as the complainant will be allowed to set out their case and answer any allegations that have been made. The practitioner as well as the complainant will also be afforded a reasonable opportunity to ask questions, present evidence, call relevant witnesses and be able to raise points about any information provided by witnesses.
- The decision of the Board and written record of the DC proceedings will be sent to the practitioner and the complainant within 5 working days from the date of hearing.
After consideration of all factors, including any mitigating circumstances, the possible outcomes are as specified in Section 52 of the Act as follows:
- Written warning
A written warning will be given if the seriousness of the misconduct is such that the matter cannot be suitably dealt with through informal means. The warning will detail the complaint and the improvement required, with timescales. The warning will inform the practitioner that a final written warning will be considered if there is no sustained satisfactory improvement or change.
A copy of the written warning is kept on file but is disregarded for disciplinary purposes after 2 years of satisfactory conduct.
- Final written warning
A final written warning will be given if the offence is sufficiently serious or if there is an unsent warning already on file. It gives details of the complaint and the improvement required, with timescales. The warning will also state that if there is any further misconduct, or if following review, there is continued unsatisfactory conduct the practitioner is likely to be (suspended or deregistered for a period of 1 year).
A copy of the final written warning is kept on file, but is disregarded for disciplinary purposes after two years of achieving and sustaining satisfactory conduct. The final written warning could contain any of the following actions as specified in Section 52 subsection (1) of the Act:
- Removal of name of practitioner from the register
- Suspension of the practitioner from performing the work of a practitioner for a specified period
- Imposing of conditions on the practitioner as the Board considers appropriate
- Payment of fine as the Board may determine
- Payment of cost or expenses of and incidental to the injury by the environmental assessment practitioner.
- Caution, in writing, the practitioner and set conditions for the conduct of the practitioner’s business which he should comply with for a period not exceeding three years
In circumstances where conditions in Sections 3, 4, 5 or 6 are not satisfactorily met by the practitioner, the Board may take further action against the practitioner (suggestions for further action, maybe not being allowed to be a member for a period of 3 years).
The decision taken by the Board will be communicated to DEA.
Where the Board is of the view that an act by the practitioner borders on criminality, such matters shall be reported to the law agency. (This is over and above the other punishment/sentence that the Board could have imposed).
Appeals (As per Section 55 of the Act)
Publication of outcome of proceedings (As per Section 56 of the Act)