Go to top of page

The year in review

External factors and incentives are such that corruption–particularly corruption-enabled border crime–is not a problem that gets 'solved'. Rather, it is one that gets managed.

To achieve its purpose–to limit corruption opportunities–ACLEI aims to ensure that indications and risks of corruption in LEIC Act agencies are identified and addressed, and to strengthen those agencies against compromise.

An effective law enforcement integrity framework would be visible in the following ways.

ACLEI's impact over time

ACLEI impact over time

  • The national response to corruption-enabled border crime is more effective
  • Law enforcement anti-corruption arrangements are strengthened
  • ACLEI reinforces its investigative capabilities and operational partnerships
  • Law enforcement and integrity agencies across jurisdictions share
    information and work together with greater confidence
  • Legal and policy settings remain matched to changing corruption
    risks and threats

Source: ACLEI 2015–16 Corporate Plan (p 10)

To achieve these objectives, ACLEI seeks to:

  • be alert to changes in the threat environment
  • suggest measures to harden law enforcement agencies against risk
  • work to strengthen detection arrangements, and
  • investigate those cases that would have the highest impact in disrupting criminal relationships, or have a deterrence effect.

The following pages describe what ACLEI did in 2015–16 to achieve its goals.

Delivery against strategic priorities

At page 11, the Corporate Plan set out 19 strategic priorities for 2015–16.
ACLEI either achieved or made progress towards these priorities, as indicated here.

Maintain and further embed ACLEI's professional standards framework

  • Fraud and corruption control plan revised
  • Enhanced auditing of staff activity
  • Professional standards and integrity
    one-on-one inductions for new staff

Status: On track

Target investigative efforts to realise the highest possible strategic contribution to integrity in law enforcement agencies, and to those matters where there would be the greatest benefit in ACLEI's direct involvement

  • Priority was given to 16 investigations
  • Three convictions were achieved
  • Ten prosecutions are underway

Status: On track

Recruit and induct skilled and experienced staff to fill positions made available through funding provided in the 2015 Federal Budget

  • ACLEI's overall staffing grew by eleven
  • Recruitment continues
  • Induction delivered to all new staff

Status: On track

Review core investigative capabilities and invest in training and development

  • Proactive ACLEI strategy commenced
  • Human Intelligence unit established
  • Integrity Commissioner speaker series commenced

Status: Complete

Conduct an appraisal of organisational culture and values

  • External review found ACLEI to have a high professional standards culture

Status: Complete

Extend cooperative working relationships and operational partnerships with a range of agencies, including across jurisdictions, to combat corruption-enabled border crime

  • Integrity Commissioner spoke about corruption-enabled border crime at the national Serious and Organised Crime Coordination Committee
  • Major investigation partners included State-based agencies
  • Relationships were extended through a new program of disseminations

Status: On track

As appropriate, work cooperatively with LEIC Act agencies to help build or strengthen integrity arrangements, for example by mutual secondments or in joint taskforces

  • The AFP and DIBP seconded staff to ACLEI
  • 29 joint investigations or taskforces were commenced
  • The Community of Practice for Corruption Prevention met three times
  • ACLEI convened two groups under the Community of Practice–a Fraud Control Experts Panel and an ICT Security Experts subgroup

Status: On track

Review facilities, noting that the lease on the Canberra premises expires in June 2016

  • Canberra-based staff moved to new secure premises in July 2016

Status: Complete

Identify opportunities to strengthen the legislative settings that underpin the law enforcement integrity framework

ACLEI contributed to reviews of:

  • the LEIC Regulations
  • Part V of the AFP Act
  • the ACC Act
  • guidance under the PGPA Fraud Rule
  • the PID Act
  • T(IA) Regulations, relating to conflicts of interest and data retention, and
  • anti-money laundering legislation

Status: On track

Contribute to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ACLEI Inquiry into the Integrity of Australia's Border Arrangements

  • The Integrity Commissioner and Executive Director Operations joined the Committee to inspect border environments in Brisbane, Broome, Darwin, Fremantle, Perth and Sydney
  • ACLEI contributed to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Inquiry into Illicit Tobacco
  • ACLEI undertook a corruption prevention study visit to UK border and law enforcement agencies

Status: Complete

Contribute to Australian Government Protective Security Policy Framework response to insider threat, for example by participating on the relevant interdepartmental committee and by contributing to whole-of-government intelligence assessments

  • ACLEI participated on the Protective Security Strategic Reforms Interdepartmental Committee and supported the anti-corruption aspects of the Committee's work
  • ACLEI contributed to the ACC Project Sycamore (an intelligence review of public sector corruption), and the ANAO Cyber Resilience audit 2016

Status: On track

Design and carry out a peer review survey to establish confidence and cooperation benchmarks

  • Conducted by Dr David Lacey, survey results have informed the 2015–16 Performance Statement and plans for 2016–17

Status: Complete

Perform statutory duties and responsibilities effectively, efficiently and responsibly

  • No adverse findings received from the Commonwealth Ombudsman
  • Operations Governance Board established
  • Internal audit shows appropriate compliance checks are in place
  • Opportunities for strengthening compliance were identified

Status: Move to business as usual

Integrate the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and Australian Border Force into the 'integrity partnership'

  • The Integrity Commissioner presented twice to Senior Executives and spoke at a meeting of the DIBP Audit Committee
  • The Executive Director Operations presented six times to management leadership training
  • One staff member was seconded from DIBP to ACLEI

Status: Progress made

Fully establish the ACLEI / Australian Federal Police Sydney Joint Taskforce

  • ACLEI made ten ongoing appointments to the Taskforce.
  • Accommodation will be reviewed as part of the 2016 implementation review

Status: Progress made

Engage with LEIC Act agency Audit Committees to promote corruption risk awareness

  • The Integrity Commissioner spoke at meetings of the ACC, CrimTrac and DIBP Audit Committees

Status: On track

As appropriate, establish agreements with LEIC Act agencies relating to the types of corrupt conduct that will attract the interest of the Integrity Commissioner

  • The Integrity Commissioner established an agreement with the AFP Commissioner under section 17 of the LEIC Act
  • Discussions with DIBP are underway

Status: On track

Deliver corruption prevention products that assist agencies to strengthen integrity arrangements

  • ACLEI published a series of corruption prevention web pages
  • A fraud and corruption risk control planning primer was published
  • ACLEI made 21 awareness-raising presentations to the staff of jurisdiction agencies
  • Specific disseminations to LEIC Act agencies identified corruption vulnerabilities

Status: On track

Meet the Minister's and the Government's requirements and expectations

  • The Integrity Commissioner met regularly with the Minister for Justice to provide briefings on corruption investigations and emerging threats
  • The Integrity Commissioner gave two investigation reports to the Minister
  • The PJC-ACLEI commended ACLEI for the work of 2014–15, and noted its intention to continue to monitor throughput
  • ACLEI participates on the Open Government Partnership and
    Anti-Corruption Interdepartmental Committees
  • An ACLEI staff member participated as a technical expert on the Australian delegation to the sixth Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, in Russia
  • ACLEI is a member of the Integrity Agencies Group (convened by the Australian Public Service Commissioner), and the Heads of Commonwealth Operational Law Enforcement Agencies

Status: Move to business as usual

Operations overview

Investigating corruption

ACLEI's investigation function is the central means by which evidence is gathered that may lead to prosecutions or disciplinary actions relating to the conduct of individuals and–when possible–to the recovery of proceeds of crime. Investigations also serve as a unique opportunity for ACLEI's intelligence analysts to gather contemporary information about corruption risks and vulnerabilities, which contribute to strengthening systems to resist compromise.

The most frequent target of ACLEI's investigations remains the threat of corruption-enabled border crime, particularly instances involving facilitation of the importation of illicit drugs. A number of other investigations relate to undeclared associations between officials and criminals–an indicator of possible corrupt conduct. A third, much smaller, category of allegations in 2015–16 related to doubts about the integrity of senior law enforcement officials. ACLEI's case portfolio in 2015–16 included investigations into all agencies in jurisdiction.

A total of 144 corruption issues were the subject of ACLEI investigations during the year, including investigations into 76 corruption issues that were commenced in the reporting period. ACLEI handled 16 priority investigations, with the remainder of cases in various phases of information-collection, or in report-writing stages. Some of these operations relate to multiple corruption issues–for instance where a cluster of issues have been grouped into geographical locations, for holistic investigation.

This section summarises:

  • how corruption issues were managed during the reporting period
  • trends in the use of investigation powers, and
  • outcomes of investigations and legal proceedings during 2015–16.

How corruption issues were dealt with in 2015–16

Infographics on how corruption issues were dealt with in 2015-16

Use of powers

Investigations into hard-to-detect corruption issues involve the deployment of covert capabilities (such as telecommunications interception, surveillance devices, assumed identities and physical surveillance assets) as well as the use of the Integrity Commissioner's statutory coercive powers.

The decision to use a particular power or method is based on operational considerations, relating to which method may best fit an investigation plan, having regard to privacy and other risk factors. The following table indicates the trend in use of these capabilities.

Trend in ACLEI's deployment of information-gathering powers

Capability 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16
Notice to provide information or produce documents or things
[s 75, LEIC Act]
15 28 31 32 84
Summons to attend a hearing to give evidence and/or produce documents or things [s 83, LEIC Act] 13 21 17 6 11
Hearings conducted [s 82, LEIC Act] 9 20 17 7 6
Power of entry without warrant
[s 105, LEIC Act]
0 0 1 0 0
Search warrant
[Part 9, Division 4, LEIC Act]
1 0 4 3 9
Telecommunications (Interception and Access) warrant 9 10 25 3 6
Surveillance devices warrant
(may include multiple devices)
7 6 14 2 4
Controlled operation authorisation
(Part IAB, Crimes Act 1914)
0 0 3 1 0
Assumed identity authorisation
(Part IAC, Crimes Act 1914)
0 0 0 0 9

In some instances, multiple hearings may be conducted for a summons, or hearings may not proceed for operational reasons. Similarly, search warrants obtained are occasionally not executed, due to operational developments. Powers exercised under warrants obtained by other agencies in the context of joint investigations with ACLEI are not reported in this table. Surveillance and T(IA) warrant numbers do not include renewals.

Investigation reports

Two reports relating to the ACC–Operations Galaxy and Hadron–were given to the Minister, each one resulting in disciplinary action and refinements to business practices and the ACC's integrity framework. Summaries of these reports are in Appendix Two.

  • Operation Galaxy was published as a 'near miss' case study within Australian Government agencies, to highlight potential security and integrity risks relating to 'privileged access' ICT administrators.
  • Operation Hadron concerned a person seconded to the ACC who had an undeclared criminal association, and highlighted the challenges agencies sometimes face in selecting and inculcating temporary staff into an agency's existing security culture. A pending prosecution relates to the removal of a document from ACC premises.


Corruption in law enforcement agencies often involves collusion between corrupt or compromised law enforcement officials and other people, including those with connections to organised crime–the so-called 'corruption handshake'. Over time, ACLEI's investigations have demonstrated the importance of such networks to the success of the business models of criminal enterprises.

Accordingly, while ACLEI's investigations may give rise to prosecutions of staff members of LEIC Act agencies, they may also–particularly in the case of joint investigations–result in prosecutions of members of the public or employees of other government agencies.

Summary of prosecutions arising from ACLEI activity in 2015–16

Prosecutions concluded

Three prosecutions arising from ACLEI investigations resulted in convictions during the year.

  • One person–a civilian participant in corruption-enabled border crime–received a sentence of five years and seven months imprisonment, with a non-parole period of three years and six months for charges arising from the ACLEI/AFP Operation Heritage-Marca.
  • A (now former) staff member of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources received an effective sentence of twelve months imprisonment for corruption-related offences (ACLEI Operation Karoola). A report to the Minister will be made at the conclusion of the operation.
  • A (now former) appointee of the Australian Federal Police received an effective sentence of twelve months imprisonment for corruption-related offences (ACLEI Operation Marlowe). A report to the Minister will be made at the conclusion of the operation.

Prosecutions pending

Ten prosecutions were before the courts at the end of the reporting period.

Outcomes of other legal proceedings

Confiscation proceedings

ACLEI Operation Swan–examining alleged criminal conduct by two staff members of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources–resulted in the restraint of alleged proceeds of crime worth approximately $1 million by one of ACLEI's investigation partners, Victoria Police. Prosecutions remain before the courts.

No proceeds of crime applications were commenced directly by ACLEI during the reporting period.

Enforcement orders

No applications were made to the Federal Court of Australia for delivery of a witness passport or for an arrest (see sections 97–101 of the LEIC Act).

Other court proceedings

No applications for orders of review in respect of matters arising under the LEIC Act were determined or otherwise disposed of in 2015–16.

Strengthening integrity systems

ACLEI's strategic objective is to make it more difficult for corruption in law enforcement agencies to occur, or to remain undetected. In support of this purpose, ACLEI looks for opportunities to build resistance to corruption–for example, by:

  • engaging with LEIC Act agencies to share insights about how to identify and manage corruption risk, contributing to the design of anti-corruption frameworks, awareness-raising and facilitating inter-agency sharing of good practice
  • working with the policy departments of Government to ensure policy and legislative settings remain matched to the changing threat environment and the difficult task of detecting and investigating corrupt conduct, and
  • contributing as a member of the anti-corruption and integrity community in the Commonwealth public sector, in Australia more broadly, and internationally.

ACLEI's 2015–16 activities in these areas are reported under Delivery against strategic priorities, earlier in this chapter, and in the 2015–16 Performance Statement under Criterion One and Criterion Four. This section illustrates how ACLEI's corruption prevention efforts helped to strengthen integrity systems and government policy settings during the reporting period.

How it all fits together–a case study

In May 2015, three ACLEI and Australian Crime Commission officers travelled to the United States and Canada on a fact-finding visit, to exchange information about corruption-enabled border crime. During 2015–16, lessons from this visit, combined with intelligence and other information from ACLEI operations, has enabled ACLEI to support and contribute to the Australian Government organised crime response–including:

  • the ACC's Project Sycamore (which is researching the prevalence of public sector corruption as a method used by organised crime groups in Australia)
  • the ACC's classified Organised Crime Threat Assessment in 2016
  • through the national Serious and Organised Crime Coordination Committee
  • by providing informed comment for government policy to deal with insider threat and criminal infiltration–such as the possible application of deferred prosecution agreements in Australia and anti-money laundering legislation
  • by participating on the Attorney-General's Department-led Interdepartmental Committee on Protective Security Strategic Reforms, and
  • by supporting LEIC Act agency Organisational Suitability Assessment programs.

A November 2015 study visit by an ACLEI corruption presentation to border and law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom also gathered strategic insights (see Patterns and trends). On return, ACLEI again shared trends with the ACC, other LEIC Act agencies and government policy makers.

Observations from these two visits–particularly the need to improve data collection in Australia about the deliberate use of corruption as a compromise method, to monitor shifts in threat–informed ACLEI's strategies and focus in 2015–16. For example, ACLEI:

  • renewed its focus on finding ways (such as vulnerability assessments and trends analyses) to target hard-to-detect corruption relating to law enforcement at the border
  • explored risks associated with shared operational environments through a Fraud Control Experts Panel
  • reviewed operational capabilities, placing greater emphasis on the collection and dissemination of intelligence and establishing a Human Intelligence capability, and
  • engaged further with State law enforcement agencies, to cooperate on detecting and investigating corruption-enabled border crime–including by participating in
    State-Commonwealth taskforces.


ACLEI's awareness-raising activities have a number of strategic aims–to enable and encourage reporting of suspected corrupt conduct to the Integrity Commissioner, to support LEIC Act agency efforts to maintain high-integrity cultures, and to improve the ability of managers and supervisors to recognise and deal with corruption, should it occur. Additionally, ACLEI uses opportunities presented by conferences and other engagement with the non-government anti-corruption community (such as Transparency International and academics) to build the knowledge base about corruption risks, methods and vulnerabilities.

During the year, the Integrity Commissioner presented to meetings of the ACC, CrimTrac and DIBP Audit Committees, to encourage the alignment of anti-corruption and audit functions. This engagement will continue in 2016–17.

The Integrity Commissioner and senior ACLEI staff also made corruption prevention presentations to a broad range of Australian Government agencies, including to the APSC Ethics Contact Officers Network, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Passport Fraud Section annual conference, the Department of Health Senior Executive Service, and the APSC Audit Committee.

Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference

In November 2015, ACLEI was again a 'partner agency' sponsor of the biennial Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference, hosted by the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission in Brisbane. The conference has an important national role in raising awareness about, and building expertise in, countering corruption in the public sector.

Presenting to the conference on the topic of Integrity leadership: countering corruption impulses in difficult environments, the Integrity Commissioner observed that the high integrity of leaders is a necessary precondition, but insufficient of itself to prevent corruption in organisations. He concluded that senior managers who invest time in their middle management cohort are the most likely to be effective at shaping an entire organisation's norms and standards. The Integrity Commissioner's presentation can be found on the ACLEI website, under Speeches.

Corruption prevention online

A milestone for ACLEI was the publication of a series of corruption prevention webpages. These pages consolidate and make widely available the unique anti-corruption insights ACLEI has developed over several years. The webpages include:

  • a series of key concepts, including leading questions to help anti-corruption practitioners apply them in their own environments
  • a corruption prevention toolkit, including tips to identify corruption risk or develop risk control plans and example lists of anti-corruption measures, and
  • case studies drawn from the Integrity Commissioner's investigations.

ACLEI's corruption prevention webpages were cited in the APSC State of the Service Report 2014–15 and by Merit Protection Commissioner, Ms Anwynn Godwin, in her address to the OECD Integrity Review of Mexico in January 2016.

Building networks

Cooperative relationships–with the agencies in the Integrity Commissioner's jurisdiction, with other integrity agencies, with government agencies at Commonwealth, State and Territory levels, and internationally–assist ACLEI to counter law enforcement corruption and to play a role in strengthening Australia's integrity arrangements more generally, including at the border. Accordingly, ACLEI endeavours to establish and maintain productive relationships with key partners in Australia's integrity system.

For example, ACLEI participated in a workshop convened jointly by Griffith University and Transparency International for senior anti-corruption policy makers and practitioners to inform proposed research into Australia's integrity systems.

ACLEI also made a priority of reinforcing relationships with State police forces–through information exchange and joint taskforces–and with counterpart anti-corruption agencies across Australia, through the Australian Anti-corruption Commissions Forum. The AACF held two meetings of Commissioners during the year. The Executive Coordination Group–comprising senior executives from member organisations–also met in 2015–16.

Building communities of expertise in anti-corruption

Two AACF subgroups were established during the year, with the aim of building communities of expertise in anti-corruption practice.

ACLEI hosted one of two meetings of the Legal Forum, comprising legal officers from member agencies. The meetings canvassed legal implications relating to joint taskforces, parliamentary privilege, assumed identities and recent case law.

ACLEI convened and hosted the Corruption Prevention Practitioners Forum–consisting of corruption prevention experts from member agencies–in Canberra in May 2016. Participants discussed shifts in the corruption risk environment, emerging practice in
anti-corruption awareness-raising, and how to monitor and evaluate anti-corruption efforts.

Strengthening law enforcement anti-corruption arrangements

ACLEI supports efforts by LEIC Act agencies to strengthen or update their anti-corruption frameworks so that they remain matched to the changing risk and threat environment. For the same reasons, ACLEI endeavours to ensure that wider policy and legal arrangements provide a firm foundation for agencies to manage the risk of corruption.

For example, ACLEI's participation on the Protective Security Strategic Reforms Interdepartmental Committee allows it to suggest best practice deterrence and detection mechanisms for managing insider threat–such as strengthened on-boarding arrangements or an 'integrity gateway' approach to recruitment, continuous security checking based on risk, and establishing a mechanism to use criminal intelligence holdings to identify undeclared relationships that could lead to security or integrity compromises. The Integrity Commissioner also met with the Protective Security Strategic Reforms Oversight Board in November 2015, and spoke about the value of a legislative basis for substance abuse testing and the importance of appropriate sharing of integrity-related information between government agencies.

In addition, a number of ACLEI's activities in the year centred on the theme of strengthening corruption control planning in agencies, as described here.

Fraud and corruption control planning

The Commonwealth fraud control policy and guidance issued under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 incorporates observations from ACLEI.

ACLEI published the Developing fraud and corruption risk control plans primer, to help planners take advantage of good practice and avoid common mistakes (see www.aclei.gov.au).

The ACLEI 2016–2017 Fraud and Corruption Control Plan–issued during the reporting period–applies and embeds ACLEI's insights about how to identify, manage and communicate risk, including the importance of maintaining professional standards. It has been circulated to jurisdiction agencies and the Attorney-General's Department, and is published on the ACLEI website.

ACLEI convened three meetings of the Fraud Control Experts Panel, a subgroup of the ACLEI Community of Practice for Corruption Prevention, to facilitate the exchange of ideas and methods and build awareness of common risks. Insights about risks arising in shared operational environments arose in this forum (See Patterns and trends).

With the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, ACLEI co-presented in a panel discussion about fraud and corruption control planning at the Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference in November 2015.

The Integrity Commissioner's investigation reports in 2015–16 again included observations about risks relating to back room staff and Information and Communications Technology
'super-users'–that is, administrators or other people with privileged access to databases or systems. Identified issues related to pre-employment screening, compliance with declarable associations requirements, controlling access to classified material, downloading software without authority, and storing official information in personal accounts.

Managing ICT 'super-user' risk

During the reporting period, ACLEI convened a one-off ICT specialist subgroup of the Community of Practice for Corruption Prevention. The meeting provided an opportunity for ICT security experts from LEIC Act agencies (and ACLEI operations and corruption prevention staff) to hear from speakers from the Australian National Audit Office and Attorney-General's Department about information technology controls for managing 'super-user' or 'privileged access' integrity risk.

Topics canvassed included segregation of duties and access controls, automated logging of activity (such as access, downloads and changes) and the importance of reviewing these logs, spot-checking email traffic, audits, processes for revoking privileges when no longer needed, and after-action reporting and remediation.

ACLEI continues to engage with the Attorney-General's Department and other cyber-security experts to raise awareness of 'insider threat' in this environment.

Patterns and trends

Trends in detection

One of the observations from the ACLEI/ACC delegation to North America in May 2015 was that proactive, systematic intelligence-gathering and investigations are necessary to deal effectively with corruption exposure in higher-risk environments. The delegation noted that multiple channels of intelligence gathering appear to be crucial to countering the sophisticated means–such as encryption and counter-surveillance methods–now commonly being used by covert corrupt networks to evade detection.

Subsequently, in November 2015–as part of travel already arranged as a member of the Australian Delegation to the Sixth Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in Russia–an ACLEI corruption prevention officer met with border and law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom. The aim was to gain further insight into the cross-border organised crime threat, the extent to which organised crime groups are actively targeting public sector and law enforcement employees, and corruption prevention and detection approaches being trialled internationally.

The ACLEI staff member and London-based officials from the AFP and DIBP met with four agencies over two days–namely, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the National Crime Agency, and the UK Border Force.

A number of emerging trends in the UK environment were canvassed–including predatory sexual behaviour among law enforcement personnel, 'legal highs' (for example, new psychoactive substances and steroids), the reactions of individuals to social change and tightening economic conditions, visa fraud risk, the value of insider knowledge to criminals, how corrupt networks form and are organised, and infiltration or targeting of law enforcement agencies by criminal groups.

The delegation observed that integrity systems may be weakened by workplace change and that a strong corruption prevention and governance regime is an important means to guard against emerging or unknown future risk.

The meetings in the UK provided important confirmation of ACLEI's detection strategy of scenario planning which focuses on identifying and protecting the 'asset' or 'commodity' desired by potential corruptors, as opposed to concentrating solely on staff members' individual behaviours. Understanding the Commodity-Opportunity-Incentive equation helps to answer the question–so crucial to uncovering well-concealed corruption–"Are we looking in the right places and for the right things?". This approach also helps to counter the selective perception and confirmation bias inherent in detection and prevention activities.

Deeply-concealed corruption

Even when ACLEI's investigations do not lead immediately to findings of corrupt conduct, they have generated valuable intelligence which has been disseminated to disrupt criminality. A number of investigations (such as Operation Swan) started as anti-corruption operations and subsequently connected into high-order criminal investigations relating to drug crime. As a result, State law enforcement agencies–already aware of criminal interest in border functions and of the possibility of compromise–have been working closely with ACLEI, and bringing more information forward for the Integrity Commissioner's attention.

ACLEI's intelligence systems and information channels are now developed to the point that it routinely receives credible and reliable information about small-scale opportunistic corruption that occurs in high corruption-risk environments. However, other indicators give a sense of where systems could be strengthened and adjusted in order to find corruption that is deeply and expertly concealed–what we are not seeing.

Some visible indicators that such corruption risk exists are:

  • critical leaks, or the compromise of major law enforcement investigations (noting that operational security is always difficult to negotiate and achieve)
  • mismatches between the prevalence of illicit drugs in a particular community and law enforcement interdiction results in the same community
  • specific intelligence about the targeting of controlled environments by organised crime groups, and
  • aggregation of risk in closed operational environments, such as ports and airports (which can be difficult to penetrate or investigate).

As ACLEI's information holdings have grown, older intelligence is being combined with new information to build a richer picture of these indicators. Additionally, ACLEI has begun to revisit previously closed corruption issues or investigations, where additional information has come to light, or where they have relevance to current investigations. Seven such investigations were initiated during the reporting year.

Workplace culture

The risk inherent in border regulation functions is that there is frequent interaction with parties who may wish to influence decisions or cultivate goodwill. Some cultural factors in the workplace–which may be precursors for corruption–may indicate vulnerability to grooming or compromise. For example, cultural acceptance of receiving gifts from clients or suppliers may cloud judgement, with insufficient regard given to the implication that decisions may be affected by accepting gifts.

People who work in ports and airports and similar closed environments form close communities which may stay together for long periods. There can be years of contact between individual officers from various government agencies stationed in ports or airport environments, and with private sector representatives of companies who work in the same places. The familiarity engendered may give rise to co-interest or the blurring of loyalties. 'Shadow systems'–the role played by charismatic individuals or an acceptance of 'work-arounds' and 'short-cuts' in proper process and governance controls–may also be significant in culture-setting.

In these situations, social lives often intersect as well–for example through schools, childcare or sport. This situation reduces the degrees of separation between a corrupting influence and potential targets of compromise.

In recent years, several key Australian Government law enforcement and border agencies have strengthened their practices to guard against compromise and corruption. For example, mandatory reporting, drug testing, and employment screening and more stringent reference checking have all been introduced or reinforced.

However, these systems are only as good as their local implementation, and they can be weakened through an inconsistent approach to standards. ACLEI is seeing evidence of this effect in a number of current investigations.

Managing risk in shared operational environments

In the reporting period, the Integrity Commissioner and Executive Director Operations accompanied the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ACLEI on familiarisation visits to port and border environments in Brisbane, Broome, Darwin, Fremantle, Perth and Sydney. These visits, arranged to inform the Committee's Inquiry into the integrity of Australia's border arrangements, helped to familiarise the Committee and ACLEI with operational challenges and corruption vulnerabilities associated with the spectrum of border environments.

The agencies with law enforcement functions at the border share the responsibility to protect Australia from a range of interconnecting threats from organised crime or from within regulated industries that may seek to circumvent controls or gain competitive advantage–for example by:

  • trading in illicit drugs, counterfeit goods and contraband
  • money-laundering and terrorism financing
  • people smuggling, sexual servitude and violent crime
  • identity theft and fraud
  • compromise of biosecurity, safety or environmental protections, or
  • tariff evasion.

Australia's model of border control relies on specialist government agencies working together in shared operational environments–such as international airports or seaports, international mail facilities, and quarantine premises–to manage these inter-related risks. In these environments, agencies work at close quarters, and must share information to meet their objectives.

Historically, most corruption control plans focus on the treatment of risks within an agency's control and accept risks outside of its control. However, where acknowledged risks are shared across agencies, locally-based mitigations or cross-agency agreements may be a better way to manage them.

For this reason, ACLEI encourages interagency consultation about risk management plans–moving to more integrated function-based or place-based risk assessments and treatment strategies–including for fraud and corruption control. These approaches would be characterised by interagency accountability for controls. This conclusion is supported by discussions during the reporting period with members of ACLEI's Fraud Control Experts Panel.