The objective of the follow up audit was to assess the extent to which Customs has implemented seven of the previous audit's recommendations; the two recommendations relating to strategic and tactical taskings and dissemination of intelligence will be considered in the context of the planned performance audit of Illegal Foreign Fishing in Australia's Northern Waters.
The Australian Customs Service (Customs) helps to maintain border security by providing an armed presence around Australia's coastline and responding to reported or suspected border incidents and illegal activity. The Customs' National Marine Unit (NMU) operates a fleet of eight seagoing Bay class vessels called the ‘Australian Customs Vessels' (ACVs) and, when necessary, chartered vessels to undertake specific taskings.
ACVs are deployed in response to a diverse range of taskings initiated by Customs and other Commonwealth agencies. Work carried out by the ACVs includes: intercepting foreign fishing vessels within Australia's jurisdiction; intercepting vessels suspected of carrying illegal immigrants, drugs and other prohibited imports; search and rescue; investigating marine pollution; and assisting with the management of offshore parks and reserves.
ANAO Audit Report No.37 2003–04, National Marine Unit, examined the administrative effectiveness of the NMU's surveillance and response operations. The audit made nine recommendations concerning: strategic and tactical taskings; dissemination of intelligence; rostering system; analysis and evaluation of staffing data; maintenance of marine crew qualifications; management of training resources and commitments; quality assurance for maintenance contractors; asset management strategy for the acquisition, operation and disposal of marine assets; and financial management. Customs agreed to all the recommendations.
Follow-up audit objective and scope
The objective of the follow up audit was to assess the extent to which Customs has implemented seven of the previous audit's recommendations; the two recommendations relating to strategic and tactical taskings and dissemination of intelligence will be considered in the context of the planned performance audit of Illegal Foreign Fishing in Australia's Northern Waters.1
The follow up audit had regard to changes in the Customs structure that affected the NMU, and the administrative issues affecting the implementation of the previous recommendations.
Conclusion and key findings
The ANAO concluded that Customs had made substantial progress in implementing the seven recommendations which were the focus of this audit. Implementation of the recommendations has improved the administrative effectiveness of NMU's management of marine crew, specifically in the development of the interim rostering system and management of training resources. Further, it enhanced the quality assurance for maintenance contractors, and encouraged the development of an asset management framework for replacing the ACVs. The previous audit's recommendations relating to the analysis and evaluation of staffing data, maintenance of marine crew qualifications, and financial management have been partially implemented. Table 1 below summarises ANAO's assessment of Customs progress against each recommendation.
Implementation of the recommendations had occurred during a time of administrative and operational changes, with Customs implementing an organisational restructure in March 2008. This included the creation of a Customs Marine Unit (CMU), which combined the previous NMU and Maritime Patrol and Response Unit (MPRU).
New systems are being put in place that should enable Customs to complete the implementation of the previous audit's recommendations. For example, an agency-wide human resource and rostering system is to be introduced in March 2009 that is expected to assist in improving marine crew management including rostering and monitoring of marine crew qualifications.
Also, during the course of the audit, Customs moved to strengthen the financial monitoring and reporting arrangements for the NMU. This approach is expected to support better preparation of budgets and enable trends in expenditure to be monitored and any inefficiencies and savings to be identified.
Customs response to the audit
Customs welcomes the report on the Follow-up Performance Audit of Australian Customs Service National Marine Unit which identifies that Customs has made substantial progress in implementing measures to efficiently and effectively manage the former National Marine Unit, now the Customs Marine Unit.
Customs agrees with the report's conclusions that provide useful guidance for Customs to further enhance its performance in delivering the Civil Maritime Surveillance and Response Program.
1 Australian National Audit Office Planned Audit Work Program 2008–09, July 2008, p. 36.