Volume Six 2013 focusing on Law, Order and Emergency Services

Victims of crime claims liability significantly reduced as backlog grows

Since introducing a new victims’ support scheme, the estimated claims liability for victims of crime has fallen by $217 million to $150 million at 30 June 2013. The new scheme commenced in June 2013 and shifts the focus from giving victims of crime lump sum payments to timely and practical financial support more tailored to the victims’ needs.

While the claims liability for victims has fallen, the backlog of victims claims has tripled since 2007 to 23,470 at 30 June 2013 and represents almost five years of claims. The new victims’ support scheme and additional funding is expected to clear the current backlog within the next two years at a reduced cost to the NSW taxpayer.

The Victims’ Compensation Scheme started in 1989 and $1.6 billion has been paid to victims of crime, but only $61.6 million, or nearly four per cent, has been recovered from convicted offenders. The remaining 96 per cent has been funded by the NSW taxpayer.

Governance and controls over IT projects needs to improve

The Department of Attorney General and Justice’s LifeLink project has been revived and is back on track to go live in March 2014. As reported last year, the project has been beset by problems.

Another major project, the Department’s REAL (Remediation and Enhancement and Architecture Lifecycle) program has fared better according to the Department, coming in below its $42.8 million budget. A post implementation review of the systems within the REAL program was performed by an independent consultant to the Department during the year and is due to report in late November 2013.

The NSW Auditor-General, Grant Hehir, recommends that the Department should: 

  • ensure there is effective governance and management of large IT projects

  • undertake an independent review of the management of its LifeLink IT project. Lessons from this review should be used to improve management of future IT projects.

Corrective Services does not formally examine the effectiveness of its parole program 

Corrective Services does not formally analyse or report on the frequency and types of re-offending by individuals on parole.

Corrective Services has advised that the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, on the request of the Attorney-General, has recently commenced collecting the data necessary to analyse and report on the frequency and types of re-offending of individuals on parole. It also advises it routinely reports on the number of offenders whose parole is revoked.

The NSW Auditor-General recommends that Corrective Services or another body within the Attorney General and Justice Cluster, should analyse and report on the frequency and types of reoffending by individuals on parole. This will help it assess the effectiveness of the parole program.

Drugs continue to find their way into NSW prisons

Drugs continue to find their way into NSW prisons. Almost 30 per cent of targeted drug tests on prisoners were positive, which is broadly similar to 2011-12. For random and program drug tests, 15.2 per cent and 5.1 per cent of these tests were positive, which is an increase on 2011-12.

Corrective Services NSW considers these rates of use to be relatively low given the very high rates of alcohol and other substance problems among offenders. It also considers that because targeted urine testing only occurs when an officer reasonably suspects an offender is under the influence of a substance, it seems reasonable to expect targeted tests to have a higher proportion of positive results than random tests.

The NSW Auditor-General recommends that Corrective Services should examine more closely how prisoners continue to access drugs in prison and increase its efforts to minimise drug use.

Corrective Services needs to benchmark its costs

Corrective Services NSW cannot provide a meaningful comparison of the relative cost of operating private and public correctional centres. It advises that such a comparison is not possible as privately operated correctional centres do not have the infrastructure costs associated with operating large correctional services, such as inmate transport, IT services or head office infrastructure.
The NSW Auditor-General recommends that Corrective Services should develop a meaningful comparison of the relative costs of operating private and public correctional centres. This would help determine the efficiency of publicly run correctional facilities compared with privately run facilities and whether lessons can be learnt.

New Police Death and Disability Scheme

The year ended 30 June 2013 was the first full year for the NSW Police Force under the new death and disability scheme. This commercial insurance arrangement became effective on 20 January 2012. The partial and permanent disability lump sum payment under the former scheme was replaced with an income protection benefit.
Total death and disability payments in 2012-13 were $162 million compared to $301 million in 2011-12, a reduction of 46.2 per cent.
In conjunction with the new scheme, the NSW Police Force advises a framework has been developed and implemented to manage the rehabilitation, retraining and deployment of injured police officers. It advises the ratio of officers returning to work on suitable duties compared to those deemed unfit for work has improved over the past two years. The number of officers unfit for work has fallen by 61.6 per cent since October 2011.

Emergency Services – increase in death and disability liabilities

Fire and Rescue NSW Death and Disability Scheme liabilities have increased 30.7 per cent in 2012–13.

The increase in the liability was mainly due to higher future expected liabilities for death and total and permanent incapacity on duty pensions.

Further information

Barry Underwood, Executive Officer, on 9275 7220 or 0403 073 664; email: barry.underwood@audit.nsw.gov.au