The national audit office has slammed the AFP for complicating an examination into its use of statutory powers, after the audit office identified "serious deficiencies" in the agency's digital record keeping.
An audit conducted by the Australian National Audit Office released on Tuesday afternoon revealed the Australian Federal Police had failed to maintain consistent and comprehensive record keeping, complicating the review.
The scope of the office's audit was to examine how the law enforcement agency exercises its statutory powers relating to arrests, searches and seizures.
It was broadened to include its digital record keeping after auditors realised required documents were time-consuming for them to retrieve due to the agency having used three inconsistent record systems, the report outlined.
While the audit office found the police agency had been "largely effective" at undertaking its operations lawfully, auditors remained concerned over how and where crucial documents had been stored.
"It is important that police officers be well trained and exercise their powers consistently with both applicable legislation, and with internal instructions and directions about the way in which powers are to be exercised," the audit report said.
"Accurate, accessible and complete record keeping is fundamental to the effective administration of justice."
Auditors also found the police agency had known it was lagging in the area but had not worked to solve the issues.
"Evidence in a number of both external and internal reports show that the AFP has long been aware of the need to improve its digital record keeping," it said.
"There is an absence of clear, mandatory and unequivocal direction to officers as to where they must store this type of information which could potentially be required either as reference for future operational activity or required to be produced in court."
It added the lax approach to record keeping presented "a risk to the integrity of the AFP's operations".
The federal police force said it agreed with the audit office's recommendations and was working toward solutions for its failure to maintain adequate record-keeping standards.
"The AFP is developing a digital transition roadmap which includes an initiative to market-test suitable digital records-management capabilities that will inlay with our operating and technology environment," its response to one of the recommendations read.
"This work will identify potential solutions and enable the AFP to modernise, strengthen and streamline records management."
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