AFP cops a blast for poor records management

A report into the use of statutory powers by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has given these a pass mark but uncovered serious deficiencies in the AFP’s record-keeping practices and processes. The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) found that “The AFP’s poor digital record-keeping is a risk to the integrity of its operations.”

Despite a project that commenced in 2015 to migrate to an EDRMS, found that the AFP still stores the bulk of its information on shared drives, a web-based collaboration tool and the PROMIS Case Management system.

The ANAO states that “As a matter of urgency, the Australian Federal Police should implement an Electronic Data and Records Management System (EDRMS) to allow it to store records so that they are secure and readily accessible. It should cease its reliance on network drives.”

Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw responded that while “the AFP accepts that the distributed nature of information holdings within the AFP posed challenges for the ANAO’s independent verification of material. Pleasingly, the AFP is unaware of any instance where it could not produce a document requested by the ANAO with the exception of one original affidavit retained by the issuing officer. Further, when drawing conclusions on record-keeping, it should be acknowledged that policing and court processes remain heavily dependent on paper-based records. For example, paper-based warrants remain a necessary feature of policing.”

Kershaw promised the AFP would establish a “dedicated implementation team” to respond to the findings of the ANAO report, which cost $A532,000 to produce.

Its response states “The AFP is developing a digital transition roadmap which includes an initiative to market test suitable digital records management capabilities that will inlay with our operating and technology environment. This work will identify potential solutions and enable the AFP to modernise, strengthen and streamline records management.”

The AFP has 6,834 staff of which more than 4000 are either police officers or protective service officers. The AFP’s 2020–21 budget was $A1.57 billion.

According to the ANAO report, “… [it] keeps more than 90 per cent of its digital operational records in network drives which are not considered by the National Archives of Australia (NAA) to be appropriate for that purpose.

“Records in network drives are not secure from unauthorised access, alteration or deletion.

“In March 2021, the AFP advised that some officers ‘do not like PROMIS’ and ‘do not use it to its full extent’ although ‘all investigations must have a PROMIS case which is created when the complaints or allegations are accepted.’ The ANAO’s fieldwork found that many officers preferred to use network drives to store digital records relating to warrants (such as applications, affidavits and warrants themselves).

“As a result, obtaining relevant documents to support the ANAO’s assessment of a selection of warrants was time consuming, even with the AFP’s assistance, leading to the ANAO having to revise its selection of warrants. For example, the ANAO’s selection of warrants for assessment was based on PROMIS case numbers. It became apparent that for a given case number, while some affidavits and warrants were stored in PROMIS, others were in the network drive. In one instance, 10 warrants were in PROMIS but a further 12 were in the network drive.

“Many officers choose not to use PROMIS, the AFP’s current case management system and are not obliged to do so.

“ … there is an absence of clear, mandatory and unequivocal direction to officers as to where they must store this type of information which could potentially be required either as reference for future operational activity or required to be produced in court (or for an inquest such as the Lindt café inquiry).

“The AFP does not have the capacity to identify all digital records that it holds on any individual or entity.

“On its own assessment, in 2019, the AFP ranked 156th of 166 Australian government entities in its information management maturity. The NAA provided the ANAO with the 2019 Agency Performance Index League Table which listed the index scores for all 166 entities.

“ … the AFP does not have an EDRMS and by its own reckoning, ‘has digital records in approximately 700 business systems’.

“The AFP has a number of network drives but the main drive is known as the S drive. The AFP advised in October 2020 that the S drive contained approximately 680 TB of data. There are no mandated naming conventions for the S drive and officers are free to create folders as and when they choose.

“There are a total of 137,111 folders in the S drive. Some of these folders bear simply a Christian name or surname, and others had names such as Ideas ‘n stuff, Old stuff, Misc, Junk, My music and Footy tips 2002.”

The ANAO quotes a long series of reports critical of information management at the AFP that stretch back to 2009.

The full report is available HERE