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Rewarding incompetence – yet another scathing report about Dutton’s department

The 2014 National Commission of Audit decided there were “too many government bodies in Australia” and suggested abolishing, merging or privatising 99 of them.

One recommendation was the consolidation of border protection services which ultimately led to the formation of Dutton’s superministry.

“A consolidation of Australia’s border services has the potential to generate significant savings by removing duplication, better integrating and improving operational systems and practices, reducing staff, as well as consolidating back office functions and rationalising property. Savings could also come from greater efficiency in visa processing.”

However these benefits have not materialised.

A review published by the Australian National Audit Office last week into The Integration of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service highlighted significant and persistent departmental failings and no discernible benefit from the merger.

The report stated that the department “is not achieving commitments made to government in relation to additional revenue, and is not in a position to provide the government with assurance that the claimed benefits of integration have been achieved.”

Despite many previous criticisms and recommendations, “The department’s record keeping continues to be poor.”

“The audit found that the department did not maintain adequate records of the integration process. This finding repeats the outcomes of a substantial number of audits and reviews going back to 2005. The department’s own assessment is that its records and information management is in a critically poor state. The problems and their solutions are known to the department, and it has an action plan to address them, although numerous previous attempts to do so have not been successful.”

One gets the impression that the executive, having been granted their empire, aren’t really that interested in how it’s going.

“There was no evidence identified to indicate that written briefings were provided to the Minister on progress throughout the implementation process” and reporting to the Executive Committee had “minimal coverage of progress in delivery of the suite of 38 capability reform projects.”

 “In the Integration Business Case, the department committed to a detailed Benefits Realisation Plan. The plan was not implemented despite several reviews identifying this omission. As a result, the department cannot demonstrate to the government that the claimed benefits of integration have been achieved.”

And no wonder they don’t want to look at the evidence.

“Based on progress to the end of December 2017, if collections continue at the current rate the department will only collect 31.6 per cent of the additional customs duty revenue to which it committed in the Integration Business Case.”

The report also points to a “loss of corporate memory due to the level of turn-over of SES staff, with almost half of SES officers present in July 2015 no longer in the department at July 2017.”

When half of your staff quit, you know you have a management problem.

As we have come to expect from this government, they spent a fortune on consultants instead, but that also drew criticism from the ANAO for the lack of evaluation.

“The department made extensive use of consultants to assist it with the integration process. Despite a requirement to evaluate contracts upon completion, this did not occur in 31 out of 33 (94 per cent) of contracts with a value of more than $1 million examined by the ANAO, and therefore it is unclear whether these services represented value for money.”

The department initially identified possible risks to effective integration. However, regular reporting against those risks ceased when they chose to disband the Reform and Integration Task Force resulting in “a loss of momentum in the reform process and a drop-off in internal communication with staff.”

Despite endless scathing reports of waste and mismanagement, despite having completely botched the integration of customs and immigration and the formation of Border Force, despite half their staff quitting, Malcolm Turnbull decided to give Dutton and Pezzullo even more responsibility and more organisations to oversee.

On 18 July 2017, while this audit was in progress, the Prime Minister announced that the government had decided to establish a Home Affairs portfolio. From 20 December 2017, the Department of Home Affairs has assumed all of the department’s functions (including the ABF) in addition to functions from each of the Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet; Social Services; Infrastructure and Regional Development and the Attorney-General’s department.

In addition to the ABF, the Home Affairs portfolio also includes the following entities: the Australian Federal Police; the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission; the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre; and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

It seems, regardless of how many negative evaluations Dutton’s department receives, he and Pezzullo are untouchable.  The only conceivable reason to reward such incompetence, and to promote such incompetents, is to placate a political rival.

Bugger the people who have to work for them or migrants who must deal with their department.  Dutton’s only function seems to be as resident shit-thrower on talk back radio, overruling court decisions for Ray Hadley’s listeners, and ignoring immigration laws for constituents in need of an au pair.


18 comments

  1. DrakeN

    Where are the headlines in the Daily Terrorgraf screaming: “Government wastage; Administrative secrecy; Organisational shambles.”?
    Anything in the Murdoch and Fairfax media?
    Bolt, Jones et al saying anything?
    I am asking for a friend 😉

  2. diannaart

    A lazy way to cover up both incompetence and a dark agenda is by a lax system of record keeping – make a big confusing mess and proving anything becomes fraught.

  3. Kaye Lee

    Don’t give the Minister written briefings and then there is no paper trail but plenty of room for deniability. It is so much easier just to say we cannot talk about individual cases or that is an operational matter or that matter is under investigation so we cannot discuss it than actually having to answer questions. Can you imagine how much reading would be involved in keeping up with what is happening in this superministry? It would eat into Dutton’s time on the radio and pay tv.

    Speaking of avoiding answering questions, the government refuses to answer questions about what arms we are exporting to who. “Commercial in confidence” they say. What a load of sins that excuse covers up.

  4. Jaz

    Gee .. I wonder if this report will rate a mention in our corporate media or even on the ABC ?
    If , this report or commentary of the findings does make it to mainstream it’s very likely going to be dumbed down so our fellow citizens can process it quickly with little actual relevant information
    Insuring they’re ready for the next distraction .

  5. Kaye Lee

    It was published on Wednesday 6 June 2018. I am not sure if it was covered anywhere. I just periodically look at the ANAO site. It contains a lot of interesting information.

    https://www.anao.gov.au/pubs

    UPDATE: It was covered

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jun/07/border-force-merger-fails-to-bring-savings-and-beset-by-problems-report

    https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/australian-border-force-not-delivering-audit-reveals/news-story/3eba766f3de9ec443e0574c0e29b58fc

  6. Kaye Lee

    The report states that audits going back to 2005 have identified poor record keeping.

    “In July 2009 Pezzullo joined the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service as chief operating officer, a role which he continued in until September 2012. He was promoted to acting chief executive over the period September 2012 to February 2013 and on 15 February 2013 was employed as the substantive CEO. When appointing Pezzullo, then Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare told media that Customs required major structural change, and Pezzullo had been appointed to drive reforms.

    On 2 October 2014 the Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that he had made Pezzullo the new Secretary of the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, effective 13 October 2014, replacing Martin Bowles. On 20 December 2017, a reshaping of departments led to him taking up the post of Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs.”

    Pezzullo has been in a management role for 9 years, specifically tasked with driving reform for six years, and there has been no improvement. Gee he’s the one I would choose for more responsibility. A real Minister would be cracking the whip.

  7. Matters Not

    Audit Reports are compiled by nit pickers without imagination – unable to see the bigger picture. At least, that’s my experience. I note also:

    accused Dutton of being a “tick and flick” minister who failed to get briefings from his own department.

    Pezzullo and Dutton are playing for much higher stakes – way beyond matters that auditors understand or appreciate. Dutton thinks that Pezzullo is a fantastic CEO and Pezzullo knows Dutton is the ideal Minister and a critical audit report is nothing but a badge of honour. Evidence that they don’t waste time and energy on trivial matters. Indeed the evidence is that they are a roaring success – flying with the angels.

    That’s their reality. They have the formula for success. Pezzullo will fit nicely with a Labor government as well. Just ask Kim.

  8. Keitha Granville

    This seems to be a trademark of this government – set up a department, commission a report, have an inquiry – and then ignore any findings and recommendations.
    Total waste of money, time and expertise. Not a surprise.

  9. David Stakes

    Creeping Fascism disguised as populism. Wake up people.

  10. Matters Not

    if Dutton ever becomes Prime Minister, it’s a safe bet that Pezzullo will become head of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C). That’s when Pezzullo’s free wheeling ways will come to a grinding halt. It’s okay to be a bit of a cowboy when one’s a few rungs from the top but an entirely different matters when one becomes the Head honcho – responsible for the organisation as a whole.

    I suspect then, Pezzullo will become a bureaucrat’s bureaucrat – with any form of deviance subject to swift retribution. Until then … Parkinson observes but only as an emasculated spectator.

  11. totaram

    No point discussing the nitty gritty. Make a contribution to GetUp’s campaign to get Dutton out of Parliament. Pezzullo should be dealt with in the usual manner for errant bureaucrats. Suitable inquiries and questions forcing him to resign, like the IPA mole who was forced out recently. Of course, they will get nice sinecures from their paymasters. But if they are out they can’t do so much damage.

  12. Kaye Lee

    Aly France looks like a good candidate for Dickson. Dutton is sure to go after her for her opposition to indefinite detention. I hope she has her answers ready.

  13. johno

    Kaye, spelling correction, it is Ali France.

  14. helvityni

    Mr D bares his teeth, but the eyes are not smiling…

  15. Kaye Lee

    Thanks johno.

  16. diannaart

    Dutton is sure to go after her for her opposition to indefinite detention. I hope she has her answers ready.

    https://twitter.com/LiberalAus/status/1007834665904771072

    Yup, the Libs still believe demonising people works better than having actual policies which work FOR Australia.

    Sheesh.

  17. Cool Pete

    Dutton is the most savage, but also the most incompetent excuse for an immigration minister this country has ever had!

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