5 September 2012

The Melbourne Age has been carrying stories about the erosion of Australia’s border security as a consequence of officials being corrupted by organised criminal groups. Enforcement agencies and parliamentary committees have also been warning about Australia’s airports and waterfront being infiltrated by organised crime.

 The concerns escalated in March when more than two dozen border officials were investigated for drug trafficking and misusing sensitive agency information. And in late August a customs officer, arrested together with two drug couriers, was charged with trafficking offences, receiving bribes and abusing public office for personal advantage.

 Apparently the customs chief, “on the eve of retirement’ was shattered to learn of the staff member’s help in smuggling 14 kilos of pseudoephedrine, as were colleagues at Sydney Airport.

The Age alleges that the Government has failed to act despite a select committee on law enforcement warning that organised crime infiltration of airports and docks ”poses a very real threat to Australia”.  That was the Polaris waterfront corruption and crime taskforce finding that “… rampant corruption involving government officials, port workers and organised criminals is wrecking efforts to control an epidemic of drugs and arms smuggling on Australia’s wharves…”

A similar eroding of standards appears to be occurring in Northern Ireland, where the Belfast Telegraph reported yesterday on a senior Housing Executive official with responsibility for allocating 200 million pounds in maintenance contracts, enjoying “excessive hospitality” from a contracting firm which has been awarded substantial contracts. Not surprisingly, processes to maintain integrity and avoid conflicts of interest were found by the Auditor General to be inadequate.