The efficiency of the criminal justice system is a matter of public interest. Lengthy court processes can adversely affect witnesses and victims, along with other participants in prosecutions. Efficient and effective Commonwealth prosecution activities increase the likelihood of deterring potential offences against Commonwealth law and regulations, support Commonwealth regulators in enforcing compliance and are essential in maintaining respect for Commonwealth law. How prosecution services are organised; how the decision to prosecute is made; the nature of the relationship between prosecutors and investigative agencies; and the way prosecutors operate within the court system, influence overall efficiency.
Undertaking an audit of the case management efficiency of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) also addresses Parliamentary interest. The topic was included in the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit’s list of audit priorities for 2018–19, with a request that the audit include prosecutions by the CDPP of corporate crimes, with a specific focus on matters referred to the CDPP by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
The audit objective is to examine the efficiency of the CDPP’s case management. The audit is focused on the pre-brief and brief assessment phases of the CDPP’s work and examines the extent to which the CDPP uses its resources efficiently in evaluating referred matters.
- Based on the available data, the efficiency of the CDPP’s brief assessment is declining. The increasing average cost of outputs, flowing from a reduction in referrals, has not been fully offset by improvements in quality and timeliness.
- The CDPP has established key elements to support the efficient assessment of briefs. Governance structures are appropriate and investigative agency engagement largely supports the objective of improving brief quality. Case management systems and digital processes are developing and operational guidelines are extensive. While the average timeframe for the completion of assessments is 78 days, which is consistent with the CDPP’s target, there are inefficiencies in the administration of key activities within the assessment workflow. Management reporting does not provide sufficient visibility over key drivers in efficient brief assessment practice.
- The CDPP is partly effective in monitoring and reporting on case management performance. Most of the requisite data is collected, but key efficiency drivers and the average cost of outputs are not sufficiently monitored. An 85 per cent within 90 days brief assessment service standard is embedded in practice and monitored, but the target does not drive timeliness across the full spectrum of brief complexity. The annual performance reporting framework provides a partial representation of how well the CDPP is achieving its purpose.