Allegations of corruption and misconduct 2007-10 - 16 March 2013
Customs and Border Protection is aware of today’s reporting of integrity matters within the Service between 2007 and 2010. The media reporting is based on documents provided to Fairfax Media under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
The documents detail that from 2007-08 to 2009-10 there were 724 complaints, allegations, issues of concern or incidents reported to and from within Customs and Border Protection that related to the Service’s staff.
They do not take account of the significant improvements made to Customs and Border Protection’s defences against corruption and serious misconduct since 2010.
The FOI documents relate to a wide range of matters, not solely allegations of criminal or fraudulent conduct. In many cases they relate to internal disciplinary matters.
In 166 cases there was no evidence found to substantiate the allegation of corruption or serious misconduct.
Of the 527 allegations today’s media reporting claimed to have been “substantiated”, the FOI documents show these reports relate to cases where there was no evidence, or insufficient evidence found, of criminal conduct by an officer.
These matters were referred to the Service’s internal human resources area, which at the time had responsibly for managing disciplinary matters including breaches of the Australian Public Service (APS) Code of Conduct.
In 331 of these matters, which date back five years to 2007-08, it is not possible to make a determination of the outcome of the internal disciplinary process due to subsequent changes in record keeping methodology and systems.
Of the other matters, in 39 cases the officers involved were found to in breach of the APS Code of Conduct and were subject to administrative action including loss of salary. Another five cases resulted in prosecution action.
It is important to note that in many cases the report of concern was generated from within the Service itself, which is evidence of a strong reporting culture.
The measure of an agency is not whether it receives complaints but whether the agency has a culture that encourages concerns to be raised and a rigorous integrity framework to address the allegations
In January 2011, Customs and Border Protection came under the jurisdiction of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI). All allegations of corruption or serious conduct are now notified to ACLEI for its consideration and possible investigation.
This has already resulted in the arrest of four officers for alleged serious offences related to their work at Sydney Airport. Others are facing serious internal disciplinary action. The CEO has indicated more arrests are possible and that further disciplinary action will take place in relation to a number of other officers.
In addition, new legislation introduced in late 2012 has given Customs and Border Protection additional powers to strengthen its integrity framework. This includes:
• targeted integrity testing of officers suspected of engaging in corrupt activities
• the power for the CEO to make a determination that a officer has been terminated for serious misconduct
• the introduction of mandatory reporting requirements, whereby Customs and Border Protection employees are legally required to report any misconduct or corrupt activity, and
• a random drug and alcohol testing regime.
CEO Michael Pezzullo said it was vital the Service had a robust and effective integrity framework which is beyond reproach, and has the resources and ability to manage disciplinary matters with accountability, better case and records management, stringent checks and balances, enhanced leadership and improved technical skills and vocational standards.
To achieve this Mr Pezzullo is planning to conduct a management review of Customs and Border Protection’s internal professional standards function. He intends to discuss this with the Customs Reform Board and seek its guidance on best practice in this area.
He said the community was entitled to expect the highest standards of ethics and probity from Customs and Border Protection officers.
“There is no place in the Service for corruption, serious misconduct or fraud,” he said.
“The vast majority of Customs and Border Protection officers are committed to protecting Australia’s borders and our community and are diligent, honest and hard-working.
“I know they, like me, are committed to the highest levels of professionalism and integrity while carrying out our vital role in protecting the country,” Mr Pezzullo said.
Customs and Border Protection Media (02) 6275 6793