26 September 2023

Crime probe finds audit office short

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The Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) says the discovery of serious misconduct in the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) holds lessons for every other Department in the Public Service.

The CCC’s report revealed corruption risks in what it describes as one of Western Australia’s major integrity Agencies.

The report details how two auditors, each a certified practising accountant, regularly accessed sensitive and confidential information within OAG systems that were not properly protected.

One of the auditors obtained access to the names and addresses of every serving police officer in Western Australia while completing an audit and then retained them — 8,800 officers, employees and contractors — in a spreadsheet on a laptop computer, unbeknown to the OAG.

“There is no evidence the police data was shared,” the CCC report said.

“However, the misconduct risk is real and its value to organised crime could be immense,” it said.

“This risk is obvious and must continue to be addressed by the OAG.”

It said the CCC had formed an opinion of serious misconduct in relation to an auditor’s deliberate destruction of an encrypted IronKey USB “perhaps because he was angry as he claimed, or possibly because he didn’t want an examination of what had been stored on it, or what had been done with data from it”.

Specific misconduct risks revealed in the report included the easy transfer of data, despite being securely stored on an IronKey USB, which could potentially be misused, and identity theft facilitated by access to payroll systems.

Another risk involved access to home addresses (of serving police officers) which might be used for intimidation or other serious criminal offences against individual officers, or might lead to the exposure of officers working in covert or other high-risk areas.

In addition the CCC found there was access to confidential information which could be used to blackmail or be manipulated for personal gain, and the risk of organised crime targeting Public Servants for information.

The Commission’s 26-page report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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