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Case G: Building an integrity framework

In 2011 the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) commenced an investigation, Operation Heritage1, into alleged corrupt conduct in the then Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) by employees at Sydney International Airport.

The findings of the investigation were released in June 2014. A significant program of reform was subsequently instituted in the ACBPS, supported by legislative changes to strengthen its integrity culture, people capability, law enforcement capacity and business operations.

As part of the integrity reforms, the CEO of the ACBPS was given new powers to:

  • conduct targeted integrity tests on officers suspected of corruption
  • authorise drug and alcohol testing of all ACBPS employees
  • make a declaration that an employee has been terminated for serious misconduct
  • issue binding orders relating to conduct and integrity, such as mandatory reporting of misconduct.

These new powers brought the ACBPS into closer alignment with integrity arrangements already in place in the Australian Federal Police and the former Australian Crime Commission.

Other action undertaken included:

  • enhancing organisational suitability-checking processes
    • the online recruitment page was updated to state that future employees would have to undergo a rigorous pre-employment character and integrity suitability screening process
    • a voluntary self-assessment tool was developed to guide applicants on their suitability for ACBPS roles
  • an Integrity Support and Referral Network was established
  • secondary employment in the private security industry or in any capacity directly associated with the movement of goods, people, vessels or aircraft across the border was banned
  • a Special Integrity Adviser, reporting directly to the CEO, was appointed to manage the investigation of complex and serious cases of misconduct, including those undertaken jointly with ACLEI.

Task Force Pharos2 was established to detect corruption and identify employees or groups who posed significant risk to the service as a result of their behaviour, their associations outside the workplace or their involvement in criminal activities.

Creation of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection

On 1 July 2015, the functions of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) and the ACBPS were integrated into a new Department. The Australian Border Force was established as a new front-line operational body within the Department.

The Department's Integrity Framework builds on that of the ACBPS by providing a suite of inter-dependent policies, including:

  • employee suitability screening
  • requiring all employees to have and maintain a baseline national security clearance
  • requiring employees to declare any changes in circumstances that may be relevant to their security clearance
  • maintaining an alcohol-free workplace and zero tolerance for the use of prohibited drugs
  • undertaking integrity testing operations
  • restricting secondary employment and volunteer activities.

The professional integrity measures include the requirement to gain and hold an agency-specific employment suitability clearance as well as a Commonwealth security clearance. Workers are obliged to report serious misconduct, corrupt conduct or criminal activity and are subject to drug and alcohol testing. Employment suitability is assessed as an ongoing measure, updated annually as a minimum standard.

Internally developed behaviours, complementing the APS Values, articulate the expected professional standards. The behaviours include that staff:

  • are accountable for their actions and decisions
  • make decisions impartially and lawfully, based on merit and facts
  • act with integrity and uphold and maintain the law
  • communicate honestly and transparently.

More information

For details of the Department's Integrity Framework including the suite of policies, see Integrity and Professional Standards.


1 Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, Investigation Report 02/2013: Operation Heritage (Interim Report)—a joint investigation of alleged corrupt conduct among officers of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service at Sydney International Airport.

2 Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and CEO address Task Force Pharos