Councils fail to check staff identity, credentials

Council staff in Western Australia were employed without any checks on their identity, qualifications, criminal history or right to work in Australia, a report by the state’s Auditor General has found.

Caroline Spencer

The audit of eight councils across the state found instances where councils had failed to obtain working with children clearances for positions that required it.

It also found a lack of criminal background checks at some councils for positions involving procurement, finance and information system management.

Auditor general Caroline Spencer called on all public sector entities to review their recruitment processes saying the audit revealed “significant shortcomings in policy and practices”.

She said substandard checks and balances meant that inappropriate or unqualified staff could slip through the net, undermining the integrity of the public sector.

“Consistent and robust employee screening policies and procedures can reduce the risk of any inadequate recruitment practices, and protect the integrity of the public sector”, Ms Spencer wrote in the report.

‘When these practices aren’t performed on employees, it can undermine the reputation of all the dedicated, professional, hardworking public servants across the State’.

Lack of checks and balances on staff

The audit looked at 306 employees across eight councils. It found only 11 per cent had their right to work in Australia verified and 26 per cent didn’t have their identity checked before getting the job. Sixty-three employees across five councils didn’t have a criminal check done even, though this was a requirement of the job.

Only three councils had policies in place for verifying employee identity and credentials, the report found.

Ms Spencer said most councils had identified essential qualifications for certain positions, such as university degrees, licences and first aid certificates. But the audit found 54 cases across three councils where there was no evidence this had been checked.

Meanwhile, reference  checks weren’t performed for 79 of 153 employees between 2015-18, and there were 63 cases where a criminal check was required but apparently was not performed.

Three councils had “a small number of instances” where management considered a working with children check was required but there was no evidence of this being obtained.

Only three councils had procedures in place to regularly monitor employees for changes in their status.

“Consequently, there is a risk that the other entities may be unaware if there is a change in circumstance, such as a loss of licence, which would affect the employee’s capacity to perform their duties,” Ms Spencer said.

The audited councils were Melville, Subiaco, Boyup Brook, Coolgardie, Dundas, Williams, Clarement and Victoria Park.

Ms Spencer said the findings were likely to be representative of issues in other government entities that weren’t part of the current sample.

“I encourage all entities, and not just those audited, to periodically assess themselves against these risks and controls on an ongoing basis,” she said.

The report said the audited councils had accepted recommendations of the report and had either amended policies or undertaken to improve employment processes.

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One thought on “Councils fail to check staff identity, credentials

  1. Interesting article & report.

    Employment screening is vital in managing your organisation’s risk profile. Employment screening typically consists of checks on a candidate’s identity, integrity and credentials. However, ICAC NSW have noted that “there are a number of better practice resources available to inform employment screening such as the Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF) and the Australian Government Personnel Security Protocol”.

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