Customs and Border Protection Service chief executive officer Michael Pezzullo. Photo: Ben Rushton
Australia's border protection service says that it has embarked on a program of root-and-branch reform as a response to its troubled recent history.
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service chief executive Michael Pezzullo says he has appointed new leaders in the service and made sweeping changes to the disciplinary regime for the rank and file, including mandatory reporting for fraud, corruption or misconduct, a first for the Australian Public Service.
Mr Pezzullo was responding to a public service capability review of his agency, which found it was beset by patchy leadership, an under-developed workforce, an ineffective business plan and an inadequate IT system.
The review also found that poor discipline and the work culture in some sections heighten the risk of fraud and corruption and there were cultural clashes between ''operations'' in the field and the ''bureaucracy'' in Canberra.
But Mr Pezzullo told Fairfax Media on Friday that the service was moving to systematically confront the problems that had been identified in the review, carried out by the Public Service Commission.
''Since the beginning of this year, we have made significant changes within the service,'' Mr Pezzullo said.
''This has included a restructure of key functions, the appointment of senior leaders and the roll out of a leadership behavioural program.''
The authors of the review recommend that customs, which has a staff of 5500 and an annual budget of more than $1 billion, moves quickly to overhaul its management structure.
On the positive side, the review found customs is ''operationally resilient and collaborates well with stakeholders in the border space'', that it has good operational and tactical abilities and was responsive to unexpected challenges.
One of Mr Pezzullo's first acts after taking the job in February was to introduce a mandatory reporting regime.
''On my first day in the role, I signed two new CEO orders relating to professional standards and the mandatory reporting of serious misconduct, corrupt conduct or criminal conduct,'' Mr Pezzullo said.
''To tackle concerns of professionalism and integrity, we have introduced a series of reforms including targeted integrity testing and random drug and alcohol testing of all staff.''
Customs' chief executive now has the power, similar to that exercised by police commissioners, to sack officers for serious misconduct.
''As CEO, I am now also able to make a declaration that an officer has been terminated for serious misconduct,'' Mr Pezzullo said.
He said his agency had more plans for future reform.
''In addition to the reforms already made, our blueprint for reform clearly sets out a new vision and further initiatives to improve our capability,'' he said.