20 April 2023

Integrity investigation finds AFP bosses lacking in redundancies, tax laws

| Chris Johnson
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Australian Federal Police (AFP). Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Tax laws, record keeping, and leadership styles are areas the Australian Federal Police might need to work on, if two recent reports handed to senior management are anything to go by.

An Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) investigation, known as Operation Calder, has suggested targeted redundancy training might help the AFP avoid breaches of tax laws and enterprise agreements.

ACLEI’s audit of events began in 2019, with its report being published this month.

It came about following allegations of collusion to provide redundancies, and the accompanying tax benefits, to two people not entitled to them.

But it seems it was more a matter of not keeping abreast of tax laws than any deliberate attempts to flout them.

“While Operation Calder did not identify evidence of corrupt conduct, it identified a lack of awareness of the legal and policy framework governing redundancy and restructure set out in the Income Tax Assessment Act and AFP Executive Level Enterprise Agreement 2016-2019,” the report stated.

“The investigation also highlighted improvements that could be made to the AFP senior leadership’s decision-making and record-keeping practices.”

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In January 2020, the AFP released a ‘Better Practice Guide on Workforce Adjustment’ and an accompanying checklist that provided guidance on the workforce adjustment process.

It outlined issues arising from relevant enterprise agreements and explained the tax and integrity risk associated with ‘contrived cases of redundancy’.

The ACLEI report suggests the AFP may wish to consider specific content from the guide and checklist in training programs for decision-makers and senior leaders.

In 2021, the AFP established an inspectorate to focus on governance and compliance in relation to the highest risks to the AFP.

In the recently released report of the investigation, Integrity Commissioner Jaala Hinchcliffe noted the improvement the AFP had made since the incidents and the investigation began.

The Integrity Commissioner also stressed the investigation “did not identify evidence of conduct that was engaged in for a corrupt purpose,” and recommended:

“That the AFP provide guidance to AFP senior executives in relation to the legal and policy framework governing redundancy and restructure set out in the Income Tax Assessment Act and relevant enterprise agreements.”

In its response to the report, the AFP supported the recommendation to provide the stipulated guidance to its senior executive.

“In addition to this recommendation provided … the AFP is also formulating training for the senior executive on exemplifying the AFP Code of Conduct and Integrity Framework,” the response stated.

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According to the latest AFP staff survey results in 2022, 38 per cent of the more than 5000 participants stated they believed senior leadership was doing a good job. Almost a third of respondents didn’t believe the AFP’s senior executive worked as a team.

The survey also showed communication between the various levels of the AFP hierarchy jumped out as one of the greatest perceived areas of weakness. But flexible work arrangements, inclusion and job security, rated positively.

AFP senior management have acknowledged the areas of concern and assured staff they are being listened to.

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