Audit objective and criteria
The objective of the audit was to assess the establishment and administration of the Australian Border Force’s framework to ensure the lawful exercise of powers in accordance with applicable legislation.
To form a conclusion against the audit objective, the ANAO adopted the following high-level audit criteria:
- Is there an effective accountability and reporting framework for the lawful exercise of powers?
- Do Border Force officers have adequate knowledge of their powers and how to use them?
As part of the integration of Immigration and Customs, the department has made progress towards establishing a framework to ensure Border Force officers exercise coercive powers lawfully and appropriately. However, significantly more work needs to be done to gain assurance that controls are effective.
The department’s enterprise risk management framework does not adequately address the risk of officers exercising coercive powers unlawfully or inappropriately. Several internal assurance reviews have uncovered problems relating to the exercise of statutory powers. The Border Force has established an integrated operational quality assurance team, which has not yet finalised any reports. Delegations and authorisations for coercive powers are complete and in place but not all instruments are accessible to officers.
The ANAO found instances of potentially unlawful searches and failure to comply with instructions under both the Customs Act and Migration Act, which indicate current internal controls for mitigating the risk of unlawful or inappropriate use of coercive powers are inadequate.
The department has not provided adequate instructions and guidance for officers exercising coercive powers. There is currently no single source of instructions and guidance material for Border Force officers, and much of the guidance material available is out of date and inaccurate. While positive foundational work has commenced on integrating the former Customs and Immigration training regimes, officers have been exercising significant coercive powers without having undertaken pre-requisite training.