The objective of the audit is to examine and report on the efficiency and effectiveness of AFP's administration and management of its overseas deployments. The audit specifically examines two deployments and focuses on strategic and operational planning and logistics. The audit examines a planned, long-term overseas deployment (as part of the Participating Police Force (PPF) within the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI)) and a crisis-driven deployment in response to a specific event (Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) assistance to Thailand following the Indian Ocean Tsunamis of 26 December 2004).

Summary

Background and Context (Chapter 1)

The Role of the Australian Federal Police

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is the primary law enforcement agency through which the Australian Government enforces Commonwealth law. Established by the Australian Federal Police Act 1979, its functions include provision of policing services in relation to Commonwealth laws and property, and safeguarding of Commonwealth interests. The AFP also provides community policing services to the Australian Capital Territory and the Jervis Bay Territory. The AFP's Australian Protective Service is the Australian Government's specialist protective security provider.1

The AFP enforces Commonwealth criminal law and protects Commonwealth and national interests from crime in Australia and overseas. The AFP is also Australia's international law enforcement and policing representative and chief source of advice to the Australian Government on policing issues.

The AFP works closely with other Australian and international law enforcement bodies to enhance safety and security in Australia and to assist in providing a secure regional and global environment. It has an extensive network of liaison officers across more than 20 countries.

The nature of the AFP, and what is required of it, has changed significantly in recent years. A rapidly changing security environment has required a closer focus on national and international operational activities. These new challenges include counter-terrorism, people smuggling, drug trafficking, peace operations, protective security, cyber-crime and other transnational crimes.

Audit objectives, scope and methodology

The objective of the audit is to examine and report on the efficiency and effectiveness of AFP's administration and management of its overseas deployments. The audit specifically examines two deployments and focuses on strategic and operational planning and logistics. The audit examines a planned, long-term overseas deployment (as part of the Participating Police Force (PPF) within the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI)) and a crisis-driven deployment in response to a specific event (Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) assistance to Thailand following the Indian Ocean Tsunamis of 26 December 2004).

The AFP's Role in RAMSI (Chapter 2)

The AFP is the largest contributor to the PPF, which consists of police personnel from 15 countries.

Through the PPF, the AFP contributes to RAMSI through the law and justice ‘pillar'; the other pillars of RAMSI being a more effective and accountable public sector, and economic growth. The law and justice pillar has six program outcomes, of which two are directly relevant to the work of the PPF.

The PPF's progress in achieving its objectives is measured through RAMSI's Annual Performance Report framework, which provides a basis for monitoring RAMSI's performance over time.

AFP Deployment to Solomon Islands (Chapter 3)

The AFP deployed rapidly to Solomon Islands following Australian Government agreement to a request for assistance from the Solomon Islands Government. AFP personnel were quickly able to make a significant and positive contribution to law and order and public safety following the ongoing civil unrest that had beset Solomon Islands since the late 1990s. The first two phases of the mission, restoring and then consolidating law and order were implemented quite successfully.

The deployment to Solomon Islands was only the second large scale deployment of police internationally for the AFP (following Timor Leste), and as advised by the AFP, the largest civilian police-led intervention of its type in the world. It also became the first AFP international deployment where the AFP was required to maintain logistical support for the mission.2

The AFP has in place a sound approach to risk management for its Solomon Islands mission. Key elements include the identification and regular review of risks, which are recorded and monitored in a risk register and business continuity planning documents.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) noted the AFP's level of operational support for deployed personnel, and the sound infrastructure that supports the mission. The AFP has demonstrated a strong commitment to its deployed staff in mission, through force protection and health and safety initiatives. These elements of the mission have been well planned and flexibly managed to ensure that emerging needs are addressed in practical ways.

The AFP has developed, revised and refined its pre-deployment training over time in light of its evolving experiences. However, the ANAO considers that the AFP's pre-deployment training was not well synchronised with the phases of the mission. As a result, there was a significant time lag in updating the training of deployed personnel to accommodate the emerging skill needs associated with the capacity building phase of the mission.

Planning for RAMSI's Operations (Chapter 4)

The planning and delivery of the AFP's role in restoring and then consolidating law and order in Solomon Islands was well managed and the outcomes have been highly regarded internationally.

The subsequent third phase of the mission, to assist in the capacity building and development of the Solomon Islands Police Force (SIPF), was commenced without a clear, staged strategy for implementation. In this context, personnel initially tasked with capacity development activities did not receive targeted training in preparation for this phase. As a result, personnel deployed as advisors did not all have the necessary skills, attributes and understanding of the task and the cultural implications of policing in Solomon Islands. Over time, the AFP has provided more targeted pre-deployment and in-mission preparation and training for AFP personnel involved in capacity building activities.

Overall, the capacity building and development phase has been progressing steadily. In the early stages of capacity development, the AFP's focus was on building police skills, knowledge and capacities. More recently, the AFP has broadened this focus to include skills such as literacy within the SIPF, which are fundamental in building a number of police skills and capacities.

Given present uncertainty about the tenure of the RAMSI deployment, there is scope for the AFP to include measurable short, medium and long term outcomes for its capacity building initiatives.

AFP Deployment to Thailand (Chapter 5)

The AFP responded quickly and effectively to the impact of a natural disaster that affected many countries and required an international response on an unprecedented scale. Under difficult conditions the AFP provided strategic leadership and practical assistance to Thailand in the international effort to identify victims of the disaster in that country.

The AFP received considerable assistance in sustaining the Thailand deployment through the willingness of Australian State and Territory jurisdictions to provide personnel for short term deployments. However to ensure certainty around its capacity to respond to future events of this nature, the AFP should seek to clarify and document a set of ‘standing arrangements' covering the nature, and terms of, the level of assistance to be provided by State and Territory jurisdictions, particularly with regard to seconded personnel.

Contracts for Logistical Support to Overseas Deployments (Chapter 6)

Overall, the contract for logistical support in Solomon Islands has provided the services needed by RAMSI, generally in a timely manner. The AFP's recent efforts to develop a panel of providers across a range of logistical support functions will enhance scope for, and assurance of, continuity of service delivery and value for money.

However, a number of performance measures in the current contract could be improved, and penalty provisions in the contract could be enhanced, to encourage a greater focus on delivery of contracted services in a manner that achieves value for money.

The ANAO notes that the Thailand tsunami response highlighted the absence of suitable standing contractual arrangements to support a sustained crisis-response deployment. As a result, the AFP and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) had little choice but to rely on a standing contract, designed primarily for the Department of Defence for short-term repatriation services, as the basis for logistical support for the deployment. The ANAO notes that while this contract provided a legal basis for the essential rapid mobilisation of support during the initial crisis phase of the response, it was not well suited to the scope and evolving nature of the deployment beyond the initial phase.

The ANAO considers the AFP, in conjunction with other relevant agencies, should work with DFAT to develop a panel of providers able to offer identified capabilities to cater for a range of crisis response and longer term disaster management situations. Standing contracts could assist to provide a sound basis for distinguishing the general conditions in obtaining crisis support as distinct from medium to longer term ongoing assistance, in the event of a future emergency.

In addition, the AFP (like all Government agencies responsible for negotiating any work authorisation agreements under emergency response standing contracts), should ensure that appropriate legal and financial management expertise is available to negotiate with the contractor and finalise details of actual support required at the time of need.

Reintegrating Staff Returning from Overseas Deployments (Chapter 7)

The AFP is aware that personnel returning from overseas deployments can find the process of reintegrating into more mainstream AFP functions and work areas difficult for a range of reasons. In addition, the number of AFP members returning from overseas deployments has never been higher and is likely to continue to be an issue for the AFP for the foreseeable future. The significant expansion of the AFP's International Deployment Group (IDG) is likely to create longer term challenges in reintegrating members into domestic policing from overseas deployments.

In these circumstances, the ANAO considers the AFP should more actively address the management and welfare of staff returning from overseas deployments to ensure a smoother reintegration into the AFP's mainstream work areas. To this end, the ANAO considers the issue of reintegration of returning deployees should be given a higher priority by the AFP in its workforce planning and wellbeing services processes. This may help to ensure that returning members' career expectations are appropriately managed, and their value to the organisation is fully recognised.

Overall Audit Conclusions

The AFP has demonstrated a sound capability in responding quickly to international crises. The AFP's operational planning and the deployment of personnel able to apply their core policing skills made a positive contribution to the international effort and the achievement of mission objectives in both Thailand and Solomon Islands.

The unprecedented nature of the two deployments selected as audit case studies created a number of challenges for the AFP with regard to aspects of strategic planning. The AFP as an organisation has demonstrated a willingness to meet changing priorities and resolve emerging issues during the course of these deployments, and has sought to actively capture the lessons learned from new situations.

The ANAO considers that the AFP could fine tune some aspects of its planning and arrangements for capacity building missions, and that some of the agreements with other jurisdictions and professional associations would benefit from some elaboration. Similarly, the AFP would benefit from having a panel of providers able to supply identified logistical capabilities in either crisis or ongoing situations. In addition, a renewed focus on reintegrating personnel returning from overseas deployments would assist with the long term capacity of the AFP to perform its role, both internationally and domestically.

Recommendations

The ANAO has made six recommendations aimed at improving elements of the AFP's approach to planning, executing and sustaining its overseas deployments. While identifying areas requiring remedial attention, these recommendations broadly support the strategic directions and initiatives that the AFP is currently pursuing.

Summary of the AFP's Response

Over the past five years, The AFP has been called upon to respond to a diverse range of off-shore incidents, particularly in the Asia and Pacific regions. The Australian Government has provided the AFP with significant additional resources to enable the AFP to increase its capability to deliver effective law enforcement responses that continue to contribute to regional and international stability and security on behalf of the Government of Australia.

The AFP continues to work closely with key whole of government partners to deliver flexible, immediate and effective responses to a wide range of international incidents including terrorism, transnational crime, peace and stability operations, law and justice capacity building programs and humanitarian crises.

Action continues to ensure all recommendations of the Performance Audit – Australian Federal Police Overseas Operations are addressed. The AFP's Security Audit Team will monitor the progress of the agency's response to these recommendations.

The AFP's full response is reproduced at Appendix 1. As a stakeholder for some aspects of the AFP's overseas deployment to Thailand, DFAT was also invited to respond to aspects of the report. DFAT's response is also reproduced at Appendix 1.

Footnotes

1 Commonwealth of Australia, Australian Government Online Directory, available from <http://www.directory.gov.au/>, [accessed 20 June 2007].

2 Timor Leste was a United Nations (UN) led mission, with infrastructure and logistical support provided by the UN.