Australian government agencies sending officers overseas have work to do to minimise the corruption risks associated with overseas deployments, a new report has found.
Agencies like the Australian Federal Police, Border Force and ASIO are among those who regularly send officers overseas in the line of duty, but the watchdog says practices across the government are patchy and has made a range of recommendations to plug gaps in the system.
The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity has found officers deployed overseas, sometimes in isolation and for long periods of time, are exposed to corruption risks not found at home, and not all agencies have the protocols to deal with the risks.
Deploying staff to countries with high levels of crime and corruption, and situations where staff associate "with criminal entities and other corrupting influences is either necessary or unavoidable" the report found, but that doesn't mean agencies are properly mitigating the risks.
Measures to prevent corruption "could be enhanced to better respond to international corruption risks," the report found.
It found that preparation for deployment is often done in group settings, so preparation for risks associated with specific places and people can be limited, and while some agencies gave extra briefings for those going to higher-risk locations, it wasn't standard practice.
Agencies should take steps to ensure the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour do not become blurred.Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity
Among the 20 recommendations were actions like updating training to include practical ways officers on deployment could maintain integrity standards overseas, as many agencies only tell officers what is expected, and not how to carry the actions out.
The report also found that while agencies focused on mitigating personnel risks, through security clearances, psychological testing and other risks, not enough attention was given to risks associated with the exact location of deployment and the purpose of the work.
It also recommended a focus on the personality traits needed for the work.
"Agencies should consider placing stronger emphasis on the personality traits and behavioural characteristics required for international deployments in their recruitment documentation," it said.
Current personnel testing doesn't confirm whether individuals are vulnerable to corruption, the report found.
It also recommended agencies review how they communicate with staff on long-term deployments, especially those in "environments with relatively weaker integrity standards," as they are more susceptible to risk without regular contact and reminders.
"Long-term deployments to environments with relatively weaker integrity standards may be particularly susceptible to corruption risk," it said.
Agencies also needed a better focus on the risk of corruption when deployed officers return to Australia, citing a case where an officer's integrity issues while deployed overseas weren't reported to the agency's integrity area.