This Office has previously reported 4 times since 2000 on WA Police’s regulation and oversight of firearms. These reports consistently highlighted issues with Police’s firearm application and inspection policies, procedures and activities, and weaknesses in the information systems used to carry out its regulatory responsibilities. Almost 20 years since our first audit, we have had another look at this important area of Government regulation.
In November 2016, the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia released a comprehensive report into the Firearms Act 1973 and Firearms Regulations 1974. The report included 143 recommendations aimed to improve the administration and enforcement of the firearms legislation. Limited progress since the Law Reform Commission’s report provided strong impetus for another look at this area of regulation through my Office’s most recent audit.
My Office tightly focussed this audit to look at the effectiveness of Police’s regulatory approach to firearm licensing and monitoring, and key information systems used to support these functions. My Office received almost 200 public comments and submissions during the audit about Police’s firearm licence and approval processes. These comments provided my Office with valuable insights during the audit.
It was disappointing to find that Police still has significant weaknesses in its regulatory controls and information systems, particularly given that this Office in its 2009 and 2013 audits had previously reported many of these weaknesses.
While this most recent audit did not identify instances of licence approval, or firearms kept by anyone when not eligible, Police has a sizeable task ahead to reduce these risks being realised. By strengthening its systems, processes and procedures Police will address the long-term weaknesses identified in this report, and significantly improve the effectiveness of its regulatory functions. I also encourage other licensing agencies to consider how the findings and recommendations apply to their regulatory responsibilities.