The launch in January 2012 of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Service (ADR) by Her Majesty Revenue and Customs in England and Wales, illustrates the importance of  resolution of disputes using alternative means. The use of ADR  mechanisms such as negotiation, mediation and conciliation, are being encouraged by both private and public sectors.

The essence of resolution of disputes by the HMRC using alternative means have been possible through the use of facilitators, who carry out checks on intending customers, evaluate the dispute and carry out an assessment based on the evaluation.

An obvious advantage of this procedure, is the fair and quick turn around of cases for parties as well as the costs efficiency. The effectiveness of alternative dispute resolution can not be under – rated, neither can its place in dispute resolution be undermined.

In a recent interview the HMRC stated the use of ADR has been made to be inclusive of  small and medium enterprises as well as individuals in England and Wales.

HMRC’s, Jim Stevenson, Assistant Director, Local Compliance, said:

“The pilot has shown that ADR can resolve disputes without having to go to a tribunal – saving both time and money. It allows us to work together with our customers and resolve disputes much earlier than at present’.

He further stated, the essence of ADR by the HMRC is to resolve as a many disputes as possible within a short space of time.

Usually a facilitator is a trained personnel.  At the HMRC the facilitators are members of staff specifically trained in the application of ADR mechanisms to interested parties, and who have not in any way been involved in the dispute they seek to determine. The criteria of non-involvement normally used is to avoid conflict of interest.  This thereby helps with an impartial decision by the facilitator which will be acceptable to both parties.

As expected the facilitators deliver with the help of  the parties seeking the resolution of a dispute, and a comprehensive understanding of the case, within an agreed time frame or mandated time frame by the instituting body.

Sometimes, there are communication challenges and at this point the facilitator steps in to address the grey areas to either of the parties or both parties. More often , than not the clarification given by the facilitator helps put matters in perspective, and assist the involved parties determine which direction they intend to steer their dispute towards.

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In your view do you think ADR should be used in the mainstream public sector, just like the HMRC is doing in the resolution of disputes ?