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Contractors, third parties and human rights

Contracts and procurements

Businesses and not-for profit organisations may be bound by the Charter when they are contracted or funded by local councils to perform functions of a public nature.

It is important to be aware that contracting a business or organisation to deliver services does not mean that you no longer have to comply with the Charter.

Local councils could be held liable for actions and decisions made by third parties. For this reason, local councils should ensure that their procurement policies and contracts are consistent with the Charter.

For example, the City of Boroondara Procurement Policy provides that all procurement activities must be carried out in compliance with the Charter.

Human rights guidelines for engaging contractors and consultants

Local councils can consider using the following guidelines to help ensure that any contracts and procurements comply with human rights:

  • Contracting arrangements identify human rights risks and best practice obligations.
  • The council requires third parties to protect, respect and promote the rights of service users.
  • Key contracts contain clauses that clearly state the expectations and responsibilities in relation to the relevant stakeholders’ human rights.
  • The procurement policy considers the human rights credentials of suppliers.
  • There is a contract plan that includes how contractors will be monitored against compliance with the Charter.
  • A system is in place to respond to third party complaints regarding external contractors and partners.
  • Contract monitoring sets out how to deal with serious failures of non-compliance with human rights principles and the Charter.
  • The rules by which contractors are added to and removed from an approved list, or partners are engaged or not engaged, are clearly specified and reasons for turning down a contract or partnership are clearly communicated.
  • An appeals process is in place that allows external contractors and partners to question the decision-making process.
  • Councillors and staff know where to access advice and support to assist with contracting and partnering arrangements.

Case study: Baw Baw Shire Council – Human rights obligations for contractors

The Baw Baw Shire Council Human Rights Charter Guidelines sets out contractors’ obligations and provides for the following clause to be included in all contracts:

‘Human Rights

(a) The Service Provider acknowledges that the Council is required to comply with the Charter of Human Rights.

(b) In performing the Services, the Service Provider agrees to comply with the Charter of Human Rights in the same manner and to the same extent as the Council would be obliged to comply with the Charter of Human rights if the Council was performing the Services’.

Examples of socially responsible procurement:

  • The Moonee Valley City Council Procurement Policy includes the objective of ‘socially responsible procurement’, which is defined to mean ‘using procurement processes and purchasing power to generate positive social outcomes; to cover all social impacts of products and services including health, safety, human rights, ethical production processes, social justice, fair trade, diversity, access and purchasing locally and domestically made products’.
  • Similarly, Campaspe Shire Council’s procurement policy encourages an assessment of a variety of suppliers to provide suitable goods and services against non-cost criteria such as local suppliers, ethnic or minority organisations, social enterprises, and volunteer or service organisations.

The following examples demonstrate a commitment to human rights by local councils when they engage with contractors and consider procurements:

  • The City of Whittlesea Procurement Policy states that procurement activity will recognise the importance of protecting human rights alongside other considerations. In addition, the policy states that the council ‘prefers to procure from organisations with a demonstrated commitment to human rights and improving local communities, particularly where this is evidenced by fair trade certification, direct community involvement or other demonstrable positive impacts on society’.
  • The City of Greater Dandenong Code of Conduct is designed to help council employees and representatives (including contractors undertaking work for the council) to carry out their work with ‘honesty, integrity and accountability’. The code states that the council is ‘committed to upholding and promoting the principles of human rights, equal opportunity and maintaining a non-discriminatory work environment for all employees and representatives in accordance with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities’.

Grants and funding policies

Local councils often provide recurrent or one-off grants to run community projects or deliver services.

Using a human rights framework can help ensure that funding is directed to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of the community, such as older people, people with disability, people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island descent, migrants and refugees.

If grant or funding recipients perform functions of a public nature, they may also be bound by the Charter. This means that local councils should inform grant or funding recipients about their obligations under the Charter.

The following examples demonstrate how local councils have assisted grant or funding recipients to understand their obligations under the Charter:

  • Monash City Council includes Charter-related advice in information sessions for community grants funding.
  • Darebin City Council has a designated Human Rights Officer who provides regular information and support regarding Charter obligations to external agencies and funded organisations.
  • The City of Boroondara Community Development Grants Policy provides that a person must comply with human rights laws in order to be eligible for an operational grant, a grant that supports substantial programs and services that address major strategic priorities for the council.

Case study: Whitehorse City Council – Community grants application form

The Whitehorse City Council Community Grants Application Form requires applicants for funding to consider their human rights obligations by including the following question:

‘The Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities came into full effect in January 2009, how does your organisation take into consideration the principles of Human Rights when it is planning and implementing programs, activities and services?’

The application form also states that the council is committed to the principles contained in the Charter and that the City of Whitehorse Community Grants Program considers human rights in all of its decision-making processes.

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