Corruption has been likened to the destructive effects of water, which seeps in through cracks and weak points to compromise and undermine otherwise strong structures.
In the period covered by this Annual Report (ACLEI's tenth and my first full year as Integrity Commissioner), ACLEI's staff have tackled the difficult task of combatting corruption– commendably, and with skill and dedication. By any measure, it has been a busy year, marked by some significant and far-reaching developments.
Principal among those developments was the extension of ACLEI's jurisdiction to include the entire Department of Immigration and Border Protection from 1July 2015. The extended jurisdiction means that ACLEI is able to assist DIBP to protect the integrity of its visa functions, in addition to the existing cargo and passenger compliance functions that have formed part of ACLEI's remit since 2011.
In concert with this extension, ACLEI's resourcing increased during the year–by an initial $12.9 million over four years–to become a 52-person enterprise with officers stationed in Sydney and Canberra, and the ability to deploy nationally when needed. ACLEI's recruitment program for these 14 additional specialist operations staff–advertised and appointed in stages during the year to ensure their strong cultural cohesion and technical fit–is nearing completion.
With the assistance of these additional staff, ACLEI embarked on a program of proactive intelligence collection that has already resulted in a marked increase in the exchange of criminal intelligence with State integrity and law enforcement agencies. ACLEI now disseminates information to more than 25 agencies–including several State police forces that routinely share intelligence with ACLEI from their own work in combatting organised crime groups.
As a result of stronger partnerships and intelligence collection capacity, ACLEI is conducting a number of joint investigations with State police forces in several jurisdictions where there are linkages to agencies in ACLEI's jurisdiction. Major criminal investigations involving concealment can span a number of months or years, and I look forward to some of this work becoming public in 2016–17, since it will contribute to the emerging picture of organised crime groups–particularly their preparedness to use public sector corruption as a tactic.
In such a dynamic environment, ACLEI remains cognisant of the operational risks facing the agencies within our jurisdiction, and of its role in assisting agencies to manage those risks. With these factors in mind, I have recently released ACLEI's 2016–17 Corporate Plan: A more proactive ACLEI. The title summarises the repositioning I have in mind, and aligns with what ACLEI's jurisdiction has asked for more of–a higher level of timely information about corruption risk that could have a large impact on the resilience of border, biosecurity and law enforcement environments. The new Corporate Plan is available at www.aclei.gov.au.
As in past years, several agencies–in particular the Australian Federal Police–provided additional staff, specialist capabilities and accommodation for joint operations, and I acknowledge the continuing commitment of all LEIC Act agencies to partnering with ACLEI to combat corruption-enabled crime.
The agencies that are subject to the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act work within particularly high corruption-risk operating environments. A Ministerial review in late 2016–to be conducted by Mr Robert Cornall AO–will be a timely mechanism to inform the direction the law enforcement anti-corruption framework will take in ACLEI's next decade.
Michael Griffin AM