The agency responsible for investigating corruption in Australian law enforcement bodies has been told it has no way of knowing how efficiently it investigates corrupt conduct, and to pick up its act, in a new report.
In the first audit of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity by the Australian National Audit Office, the watchdog was told it needed to improve how it manages cases, and how it allocates resources. The auditor general couldn't say whether the commission was running efficiently, because there was nothing in place to measure it at the agency.
"As ACLEI has not measured, benchmarked or reported on its efficiency in detecting, investigating and preventing corrupt conduct the ANAO has not been able to conclude whether ACLEI has been operating efficiently," the report said.
The commission, formed in 2006, is responsible for investigating staff at law enforcement agencies. It had a budget of $10.8 million in 2016-17 and just under 50 staff.
The report said the lack of a framework to assess how efficient the operations of the watchdog were meant it was unable to prioritise how resources were allocated to deal with cases that presented the most risk.
The commission should also compare its performance to other similar organisations, as well as to its own past results, the audit office said.
While the number of investigations begun by the watchdog had increased, the number of finished investigations had not also risen, the auditor-general said.
"The ANAO’s analysis indicates that the efficiency of ACLEI’s investigation activities requires particular improvement, including to address growth in the number of investigations commenced compared to the number of investigations completed," the report said.
"Case selection decisions have resulted in significant growth in investigations commenced, but prioritisation of cases and resources have not led to a commensurate increase in the number of investigations being concluded."
In a scorching assessment, the audit report said the watchdog didn't have the data or benchmarks to inform itself or parliament if it was getting value for money as it detected, investigated and prevented corruption.
The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity accepted all three recommendations made in the report, but said it would be challenging to develop efficiency measures in a law enforcement context that could be universally agreed on.