'Significant weaknesses' in WA's gun control operations

By David Donaldson

May 21, 2019

As far as regulation goes, gun control is one area you’d hope government got right.

But it appears this is not the case in Western Australia.

WA Police “has significant weaknesses in its regulatory controls and information systems”, says state Auditor General Caroline Spencer in a new audit looking at the effectiveness of WA Police’s regulatory approach to firearms licensing and monitoring, and key information systems used to support these functions.

Assessments and decision making “lack demonstrated rigour and transparency”, increasing the risk the wrong decision will be made, says the auditor.

“Further, the audit also found there is limited monitoring of compliance with licence conditions, and when police does inspect, it is not informed by a documented risk assessment. Police is also slow to follow up when licences have expired or for deceased estate firearms.

“Risk-based and timely compliance activities are essential to effective regulation of firearms. Police’s key firearm licensing information system does not effectively support the entity to carry out its licensing and compliance activities. Basic licence and compliance information is unreliable and hard to get.”

This finding is particularly concerning as the WA auditor general highlighted many of these same problems in previous audits, having looked at this issue four times since 2000.

The auditor does note, however, that she did not identify any “instances of licence approval, or firearms kept by anyone when not eligible”.

But WA Police does have “a sizeable task ahead to reduce these risks being realised”, she wrote.

They should update their policies and procedures around gun licences, and ensure they are keeping adequate records. Other recommendations include that police should develop and implement a risk-based regulatory framework.

WA Police says it “will continue its endeavour to improve its capability to fulfil its obligations”:

“The Licensing & Registry Enhancement Project is in progress with estimated delivery in July 2019. It is anticipated this will address the issues relating to data integrity, systems reliability and business reporting.

“By way of an overall response to the performance audit on firearm controls we agree with the five areas highlighted by the audit and accordingly, believe we have sufficient risk management and related controls in place, or in development, to achieve compliance.”


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