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Audit of Department of Immigration finds major weaknesses and extensive shortcomings

The Australian National Audit office has completed a review of the way in which the Department of Immigration and Border Protection manages compliance with visa conditions and has found “weakness in almost all aspects” of the arrangements. The report, which was completed in December, states that “these weaknesses undermine the Department’s capacity to effectively manage the risk of visa holders not complying with their visa conditions – from simply overstaying through illegal working to committing serious crimes”. While the Department has introduced changes over the last decade to address these weaknesses, the audit found little evidence of any improvement.

 

These conclusions are supported with findings in relation to data matching, which simply shows how many people who have exceeded the duration of their visa rather than how or for how long they have not been complying with other visa conditions. Further findings point to insufficient risk and intelligence functions to support visa compliance activities, especially since the abolition of the Risk, Fraud and Integrity division in 2014. The audit is positive about the promotion of voluntary compliance and education for visa holders in relation to their obligations, but went to point out that both the management and administration of compliance field teams is not well managed – stating emphatically that management oversight of the Department’s data has been lacking over many years, and that even its own key reports on compliance usually contain caveats as to the accuracy of the data.

 

Recommendations of the report include boosting calls to the dob-in phone line, improving data collection and analysis, mandating and monitoring the appropriate documentation of visa compliance activities, and implementing initiatives for key supporting governance functions like quality assurance, guidance materials, training, performance reporting and record keeping.

 

The Department of Immigration has accepted all four recommendations and states that the new integration of the DIBP and the Customs and Border Service, along with the establishment of the Australia Border Force has created many new initiatives for streamlining services. Many functions are currently under review and developments are underway. A spokesperson for the Minister also stated that a taskforce had been established last year to tackle fraud and exploitation, and that legislative changes in late 2014 had seen over 1000 visas cancelled or refused.  For the results of these developments, as always, stay tuned to our newsfeed for the latest in Australian immigration law.

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