An audit of the Australian Federal Police’s use of statutory powers has urged the Commonwealth force to improve its poor recordkeeping, which threatened its ability to do its job within the law.
The Australian National Audit Office had wanted to assess how effective the AFP was in exercising its powers under the applicable legislation, including warrants, and whether officers knew enough about their powers and how to use them.
The audit reviewed the AFP’s internal reporting on all significant uses of statutory powers, and a random selection of warrants under the Crimes Act 1914, Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, and the Surveillance Devices Act 2004.
But during its investigations, it became apparent that there were serious deficiencies in the AFP’s record-keeping practices and processes, particularly its digital records, so the ANAO broadened the scope of the audit.
It found six of 272 section 3E Crimes Act warrants did not meet the requirements of the Crimes Act, and 149 of 272 (more than half) the section 3E Crimes Act warrants examined were not prepared consistently with AFP best practice.
The ANAO found that the AFP’s compliance with internal administrative requirements was inconsistent, with weaknesses identified in the documentation of mandatory reviews of section 3E Crimes Act warrants, and warrants and their associated documentation being uploaded into the PROMIS case management system.
Although it found the AFP has a largely effective accountability and reporting framework for the lawful exercise of its powers and met statutory reporting requirements under the three key Acts examined, the storage of internal records relating to the execution of section 3E Crimes Act warrants meant they could not be retrieved efficiently or with certainty if being complete.
It suggests that there are weaknesses in the AFP’s processes to monitor the risk of officers not complying with the law during operations.
The warrants review showed that 26.3 per cent of issued warrants were not saved into PROMIS and that assigned keywords were often incorrect or misleading.
“It is of concern to the ANAO that the AFP does not accurately record the number of section 3E Crimes Act warrants it has been issued, or that it has executed,” the audit says.
Complicating the ANAO’s work was the AFP’s generally poor digital record keeping, largely because the AFP does not have an Electronic Data and Records Management System (EDRMS) but has digital records in about 700 business systems.
The audit recommended that the AFP urgently implement an EDRMS to allow it to store records so they are secure and accessible, and not rely on network drives.
It further recommended that the AFP enforces its requirement that section 3E Crimes Act warrants be thoroughly reviewed by at least a supervisor and retain documentary evidence that the review has occurred, and that it implements a systematic quality assurance process for its section 3E Crimes Act warrant application, execution and documentation.
The AFP agreed to all recommendations.