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.