AustLII Home | Databases | WorldLII | Search | Feedback

Australian Federal Police - Platypus Journal/Magazine

You are here:  AustLII >> Databases >> Australian Federal Police - Platypus Journal/Magazine >> 2000 >> [2000] AUFPPlatypus 9

Database Search | Name Search | Recent Articles | Noteup | LawCite | Author Info | Download | Help

Editors --- "Accountable performance in a seamless world" [2000] AUFPPlatypus 9; (2000) 67 Platypus: Journal of the Australian Federal Police, Article 2

Accountable performance in a seamless world


As advances in technology surge ahead, both the public and private sector must evolve to keep pace. In such an environment, the AFP's transformation to meet the unfolding challenges of the 21st Century has been an integral part of its moving forward. In reflecting on the growth of the new workplace, a public service senior executive group, ExecNet, invited Commissioner Palmer to its seminar held in Brisbane in March this year where, in the following address, he looked at the new ways we do business .

Technology is changing with ever increasing rapidity. The shelf life of current technology is now estimated to be between six and 18 months. In the opinion of many commentators, the capability and capacity of technology is doubling within the same 18-month period. The Internet and the World Wide Web has rendered reliance on proprietary systems obsolete.

Technology is changing the behaviour patterns of consumers. Internet shopping is growing dramatically, with commerce in the business-to-business marketplace in the United States estimated to be likely to catapult from $US500 million to anywhere between $US62 billion and $US160 billion by the year 2003. (Source: Andersen Consulting's Technology Visions, 1999).

Banks are closing their branches. The ‘new branches' are on the Internet, where people can access products and services 24-hours-a-day and seven-days-a-week. We have seen this recently, with the Commonwealth Bank's new ‘Ezy Banking' alliance with Woolworths.

In the same way that technology is changing the way we do business legally, it also has enormous capacity to impact on business illegally. Crime can now be committed at the speed of thought.

White collar crime and frauds are increasingly reliant on technology. It is now possible, through encryption of data and financial records, to make identification significantly more difficult. The challenges posed for law enforcement increase correspondingly.

Worldwide, about 100 million people are seeking to migrate to another country. Around four million attempt to migrate illegally each year. It is estimated that organised crime earns about $US7 billion on people smuggling (Source: International Migration Office).

The impact of such crime is, in a sense, a reflection of the challenge for governments and their agencies. While not all illegal migration is the consequence of organised crime, where crime is involved, it is sophisticated and intimidatory. Many illegal immigrants are likely to find themselves coerced or encouraged into lifestyles that pose economic and social threats to the country, as well as hardship and other dangers for the individual immigrant. Frequently, illegal immigrants have been found to be involved not only as prostitutes, drug couriers and low-level dealers, but also in providing significant labour for sweat shops, particularly in the clothing, hospitality and related industries, which have the potential to threaten the validity of legitimate businesses, lead to widespread tax avoidance and international black market money transfers. The problem is a social one with government and community-wide implications.

In the modern world limitations are less relevant in terms of what technology enables us to do and, to a large extent, shapes the future for us by delivering services, information and capabilities at the touch of a button.

The future will require a whole-of-government approach to the provision of government services and a ‘problem anticipating — problem solving' approach to business.

An example is the increased reliance on electronic service delivery through e-Commerce. The Commonwealth Government has indicated that all appropriate services are to be delivered on-line by 2001. Major safeguards will have to be initiated to ensure an individual's identity before providing secure access.

The total reform of the traditional method of obtaining government revenue through the taxation system is occurring against this backdrop of electronic commerce, outsourcing and competitive tendering policies. This should also drive the need for a whole-of-government approach to the provision of the Commonwealth's and I suggest, more broadly, all government services. The environment demands an approach which recognises organisational boundaries as ‘boundaries of administrative convenience' — there to assist sensible governance but enabling and facilitating whole-of-government initiatives and responses.

In this environment organisational boundaries must be seen as governance indicators — not barriers to best performance. Our challenge is to recognise and commit to this requirement and facilitate it effectively and efficiently. Positioning is all-important. We must be ready to activate policies and operational or commercial actions required by government at short notice and with an effectiveness that ensures our relevance and value. This will require dynamism ahead of stability, flexibility rather than certainty, productivity over activity and accountability above responsibility.

The world has moved on at a rate and complexity not anticipated in the 1970s. The rapidly changing international environment and exponential growth in technology has made radical change a non-negotiable imperative. In a sense the identification of the challenge is easy. It is the journey — the ‘knowing' or ‘not knowing' the destination(s) — which is difficult.

Before organisations are likely to be able to embrace these requirements they must first re-fashion and profile themselves for the new environment and, as necessary, change their internal culture to create the capacity and mind-set necessary for its success. In this regard I believe little things make the big things happen and the reforms necessary must be seen as a package where the ‘whole' is bigger than the sum of the parts.

The criminal environment today

From an AFP perspective, the criminal environment in the 21st Century is very different from what it was 10 years ago.

The police force I joined 32 years ago looks nothing like the agency which I now lead. Many of the earlier internal changes and legislative reforms occurred in a relatively stable environment. The community now wants more from its police than just keeping pace with the criminal environment. It wants us to be ahead of the game. To do this we need to invest constantly in our people. We need to invest in our intelligence systems, our technology and our research — and we need to do this in an environment where we are working with laws intended for the future — not just the present or the past.

Organised criminals operate in flexible groupings for their mutual benefit. There is evidence that these criminal confederations adopt business practices usually associated with successful global corporations to organise their affairs.

New legislative initiatives will need to be developed with the internationality of crime in mind so that agencies charged with the responsibility of enforcing the law are properly equipped to deliver quality services to the governments they serve.

Historically, laws were made by and for sovereign states with the geographic concept of borders and jurisdictional limitations.

In today's world geographic borders are becoming increasingly meaningless. The globalisation of crime, the reality of the Internet and e-Commerce, and the way technology is transforming markets and enterprises combine to make many traditional laws redundant.

Sovereign governments have developed laws applicable to their geographic locations, social and economic situations and specific jurisdictional requirements. Our laws and traditional policing/law enforcement practices are built on this foundation, and therein lies the problem and the challenge for law enforcement agencies and the legislators. Whilst much is happening in this regard, much more needs to be done. Future legislation will need to address international collaboration, coordination and investigation.

The United Nations estimates that organised crimes earns US$1.1 trillion per year but there are no figures that estimate what crime costs. The true negative impact of crime on our communities simply can't be estimated with any accuracy. It seems that the best that analysts can do is to describe the impact of crime on society in superlatives and the economic impact of crime in millions and trillions of dollars.

The worldwide trade in illicit drugs is known to be worth between $350 and $400 billion a year, second only to the trade in arms. It exceeds the global oil trade.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration estimated recently that one well known Mexican drug trafficker was earning $10 billion per year and was paying up to $800 million per year in bribes to prevent prosecution.

As a consequence, governments will come under increasing pressure to produce results from its law enforcement initiatives and as such will expect that we deliver results. Similar expectations of necessity are held for public service — and public servants — more generally.

I outline this criminal environment simply to provide some context to my comments on the AFP change process. I do not put forward AFP strategies as a recipe for best practice but simply as one option. It is important to recognise there is not one model. One size does not fit all. What works for us may not for others. There are though, I believe, some consistent underpinning principles which probably apply to all government agencies:

• Flexible/streamlined structures which facilitate development and positioning (wider skilling) of people; improved levels of preparedness; proper prioritisation of work, its value and its cost (resources and dollars).

• A culture that fosters, facilitates and embraces performance, productivity and integrity.

• IT and reporting infrastructure which properly links work, people and money and provides accurate contemporary data, relevant to both our needs and our responsibilities (eg. budget).

The need for change in the AFP was obvious and fundamental. The nature of our work required our reforms to occur without losing any days because it is not possible to ever ‘close the business for stocktaking'. Additionally, much of it was done at a time of financial constraint and when the influence of the AFP within the bureaucracy and government was relatively low.

In 1996 the Australian Federal Police, for a range of reasons, not all of it its own making, found itself in a position where it lacked operational and financial credibility within government and the bureaucracy and had insufficient budgetary and technical resources and people. The challenge for us was to not only recognise our situation and identify and address our own deficiencies but also to convince Government of our need for additional resources and what we would deliver with them.

As part of this process we commissioned a number of external reviews and audits with unequivocal terms of reference requiring the auditors to provide a ‘warts and all' — good, bad and ugly — appreciation of the organisation, its procedures and methodologies, reporting lines and structure. Although we were already in the midst of a fundamental reform process, we committed to respond immediately to any additional matters identified in these reviews. This commitment proved to be vital.

It led to a government-initiated review which accepted the AFP needed additional funding and resources, focused on identifying the nature and extent of the need and the outputs that should be expected in return for the investment. Throughout this process we worked strenuously with very positive support from the Department of Finance and Administration to improve the credibility of our financial reporting and our relationships with the Finance Department. I believe the success of this process is reflected by the current status of AFP funding, the purposes for which this funding and other resources have been provided, and the operational results which are being achieved.

There is little doubt in my mind that without our self-generated reform process and our commitment to the findings of a number of external reviews we were likely to have failed in this process. But, despite the fact that such review and reform should, I believe, be required from time to time by all responsible governments, it is a process which almost inevitably brings a CEO into conflict with his or her own people.

It is a difficult challenge to speed up the evolutionary process of organisations, to separate them from their past, and to do it in such a way as to minimise organisational dislocation and upset. It is not easy — it is complex and complicated. But to fail to do so is to abrogate the responsibility of leadership in a contemporary world — ‘the accountability for performance in a seamless world'.

Underpinning our approach was a commitment to flexibility and preparedness and a recognition that there is only work, people and money.

As part of this commitment and recognition we have:

• Abolished all branches and divisions.

• Implemented a teams based approach to the way we do our work, aimed at widening and enhancing the skills of our people, and ensuring — as far as possible — that we always have the best mix of skills and resources for the task at hand.

• Abolished all reference to traditional rank titles for all members involved in national operations replacing them with a single new generic title of Federal Agent supported by titles which describe responsibilities and functions rather than simply rank (a system which recognises and celebrates expertise and performance over time served).

• Negotiated and implemented a modern and flexible remuneration agreement which: recognises the professional status and skills of our people, emphasises personal reward for performance, and facilitates empowerment and individual decision making


• Removing penalty and overtime provisions.

• Buying additional hours of work, buying back recreation leave, and emphasising OH&S principles.

• Further enhancing our range of internal audit and integrity measures — demonstrating a commitment to self-regulation.

• Dramatically reducing the numbers of prescriptive rules, replacing them with guidelines for practice.

• Giving team leaders operational responsibility for the particular investigations they manage, including operational budgets and manpower deployment responsibility.

• Developing a budgetary charter.

• Implementing reporting processes which accurately and properly link work, people and money and demonstrate the cost of work in money, people and time and the results (outputs) achieved for the input.

Like all Commonwealth agencies the AFP moved to the accrual accounting model which records information on all resource flows arising from its operations. The model records revenues and expenses when goods or services are provided or consumed (ie. financial resources flow in to or out of the entity), rather than when cash is received or paid. The requirements of this process make the linkages of people, work and money critical.

The overall AFP program has resulted in a radical departure from previous practices not only in the way we do business but also in the way we have arranged all facets of our work. Our teams approach to work enables a far more flexible way of managing our people, and ensures that we are able to more easily divert investigators and commercial support people into the areas they are most needed. At the same time we have opened up opportunities both for career development and work satisfaction and variety not previously possible.

The change required managers to loosen their controls on members to allow them to operate in the least restrictive and therefore the most flexible way possible. But ‘loosening control' does not mean a lessening of managerial accountability. It simply means doing business in a different way. Many middle managers may initially not see it this way. They will need guidance, support and even education in the ‘whys', ‘whats' and ‘hows' of the new way of business.

To be effective in the new paradigm CEOs and senior executives must not only have the capacity and commitment to ‘think beyond the square' but must aggressively and continuously explore the future. This is part of their accountability. In this process they are accountable to ensure they properly consider the implications and ramifications for partner and other stakeholder agencies of initiatives within their own organisations. In determining solutions and best ways forward they must consistently and naturally think beyond their own boundaries and consult fully with all stakeholders in the development of strategies. They must distinguish between having responsibility for their ‘patch' and being 'patch protective'; between coordination and competition; between results for government and simply results for the agency; and between productivity and activity.

We are all living in a time when technology, public sector reform, community expectations for rigorous accountability, and the potential for criminal activity is requiring more than accelerated organisational change. We are in a global environment of such extraordinary change that anything less than comparable internal change will leave us, the government and the Australian community in an unacceptably vulnerable position. But budgets and resources alone do not make great organisations. People do. We must never lose sight of the fact that our most valuable assets walk out of the door every evening. This is why we are, above all, accountable to make sure we have the best skilled and trained people, that they work in an environment which embraces conditions reflecting their skills and professionalism and that they have sufficient authority and discretion to operate to their potential.

We now have many leaders in the Australian Federal Police. The number is growing daily. Leadership occurs at all levels and a major plank underpinning our cultural transformation strategy has been to recognise and to encourage the professionalism, development and personal accountability of our members. This willingness and capacity will, I believe, determine the organisations which will not only survive but prosper in the new millennium.

The fight must be for the future not the past. As Mark Twain said:

“I am concerned about the future because that's where I'm going to spend the rest of my life.”

As executives I believe we are, to the extent of our authority, accountable for it.

AustLII: Copyright Policy | Disclaimers | Privacy Policy | Feedback