Regulating Gambling and Liquor

Tabled: 8 February 2017

5 Measuring performance and addressing past audit recommendations

The purpose of the regulatory framework for liquor and gambling is to minimise harm caused by these industries. To achieve this objective, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) has the power to license participants and manage compliance activities. VCGLR should measure and report on how its activities contribute to achieving the objective of harm minimisation.

To regulate these industries effectively, VCGLR needs good working relationships with both the Department of Justice and Regulation (the department) and Victoria Police.

This Part of the report examines VCGLR's internal and external performance measures, and its relationships with the department and Victoria Police.

This Part also reports on agencies' progress in implementing recommendations from our 2010 report Taking Action on Problem Gambling and our 2012 report Effectiveness of Justice Strategies in Preventing and Reducing Alcohol-Related Harm.

5.1 Conclusion

VCGLR has started to address weaknesses in how it measures its performance, but public reporting on its performance provides little insight into the extent to which it is meeting the key legislative objectives of harm minimisation. Its emphasis on counting activities—such as the number of compliance inspections—has contributed to operational behaviour that is focused on matters with little relevance to, or effect on, harm minimisation.

VCGLR and the department have worked cooperatively to implement new policies for both the gambling and liquor industries. VCGLR has effective formal and informal relationships with Victoria Police, but there is scope to strengthen these relationships to improve the coordination of compliance activities.

All agencies have made progress in addressing VAGO's past audit recommendations. However, the implementation of several recommendations has been too slow or incomplete.

5.2 Measuring and reporting on performance

Regularly capturing and reporting performance information and data is an important way of providing insights into how an organisation is performing. It also promotes accountability and enables early remedial action to be taken when necessary.

VCGLR collects data and reports on a number of performance measures outlined in the Budget Paper 3 (BP3). It also collects data on a range of other measures that it reports on internally.

5.2.1 Publicly reported performance information

VCGLR's publicly reported performance information focuses on measuring activities, with little direct relevance to, or impact on, harm minimisation.

Figure 5A shows VCGLR's key publicly reported performance measures and performance since 2013–14.

Figure 5A
VCGLR BP3 performance measures

Measure

2013–14

2014–15

2015–16

2016–17

Actual

Actual

Target

Actual

Target

Quantity

Liquor and gambling compliance activities

25 000

26 000

NR

NR

N/A

Liquor and gambling inspections completed by VCGLR—metropolitan

NR

NR

11 400

11 835

11 400

Liquor and gambling inspections completed by VCGLR—regional

NR

NR

1 600

2 512

1 600

Liquor and gambling approvals, licence, permit applications and variations determined by VCGLR

46 574

46 020

46 000

46 400

46 000

Liquor and gambling information and advice

131 620

133 104

128 000

126 188

128 000

Operations with co-regulators to identify licensees supplying alcohol to minors or people who are intoxicated

NR

NR

20

35

20

Quality

Liquor and gambling licensing client satisfaction—percentage

84

84

80

95

80

Timeliness

Calls to VCGLR client services answered within 60 seconds—percentage (previously recorded as 'Liquor and gambling information and advice responsiveness')

98.4

95

96

84.4

96

Liquor and gambling approvals, licence, permit applications and variations completed within set time

NR

NR

80

94

80

Note: NR = Not publicly reported.

Source: VAGO analysis of BP3 measures.

Changes in these measures each year since 2012 make it difficult to track VCGLR's performance over time. VCGLR changed the definition of the relevant BP3 measure for 2015–16 to count the number of inspections rather than the number of compliance activities. The target for this measure was reduced from 26 000 in 2014–15 to 13 000 for the new measure in 2015–16, and was split between metropolitan and regional inspections.

Although this change was useful, VCGLR is still counting activity rather than measuring impact. VCGLR's performance measures focus almost exclusively on counting the number of activities performed, such as the number of licensing determinations and number of compliance activities and inspections.

Measures such as these can create perverse incentives—activities may be planned and carried out solely to meet numerical targets rather than to achieve regulatory objectives. For example, inspections may be conducted at particular times, venues and locations to allow a high number of inspections to be recorded. The items checked during an inspection may be selected primarily because they are relatively quick to check.

This means that, with a fixed budget to undertake regulatory activities, VCGLR's activities are less likely to identify breaches associated with harms such as irresponsible service of liquor or gambling. This is because detecting breaches of the liquor and gambling legislation associated with high harms requires more time than assessing compliance with administrative matters and requires inspectors to spend time in venues. Based on the findings of this audit, a move to a properly risk-based regulatory approach would likely see a better impact on harm reduction through a reduction in the number of inspections carried out.

VCGLR introduced a new performance measure for 2015–16 on the number of operations with co-regulators, to identify licensees supplying alcohol to minors or people who are intoxicated. This measure will provide some information on compliance actions that are focused on harm minimisation.

Our audit and an internal audit found issues with the reliability of VCGLR's data on compliance activities and inspections—see Part 3 of this report. The weaknesses in the data mean that VCGLR cannot be confident about the accuracy of its publicly reported information.

5.2.2 Internally reported performance measures

VCGLR has improved its approach to measuring and reporting performance for internal management purposes over the last four years. It has reduced the number of measures and included more focus on aspects of performance relevant to achieving the objective of harm minimisation.

VCGLR regularly collates and reports performance data to senior management and commissioners. It is positive that VCGLR has reduced the number of internal performance measures from 125 in 2012 to seven performance measures in July 2016. The current performance measures and frequency of reporting are shown in Figure 5B.

Figure 5B
VCGLR's current internal performance measures

Internal measure

Reporting frequency

Licences determined within 60 days

Monthly

Contacts to client services

Monthly

Proportion of inspections at high-risk times

Monthly

Inspection—to breach—to enforcement action

Monthly

Proportion of venues with previous breach found to be in breach on subsequent inspection

Monthly

Proportion of new and varied licences subject to breach/compliant in first year

Quarterly

Change in number of specific breaches following targeted education campaigns

Ad hoc

Source: VAGO, based on information from VCGLR.

Previously, VCGLR's internally reported performance measures largely mirrored the BP3 measures, with a focus on timeliness of processing and counting activity rather than focusing on impact. Under its new approach, VCGLR has broadened its internal performance reporting to include measures more closely aligned to its legislative purpose and objectives.

There is scope to move further towards measuring performance against VCGLR's legislative objectives and stated regulatory approach, and to publicly report on the new measures, whether or not this is done as part of BP3 reporting.

5.3 Relationships with other agencies

VCGLR is an independent public authority with body corporate status within the department's portfolio. Maintaining good relationships with other agencies is important for VCGLR to effectively undertake its role. The department has an advisory role to the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, including advising on the performance of portfolio agencies.

VCGLR depends on government for its funding and must seek any additional funding via the department's Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR). It also reports to OLGR on a range of operational matters, such as budget expenditure and performance against BP3 targets. VCGLR also works with OLGR as the gambling and liquor policy owner to implement any changes made to industry regulation.

VCGLR also has a relationship with Victoria Police, as a co-regulator in the liquor and gambling industries.

Although there is scope for improvement, VCGLR's relationships with the department and Victoria Police effectively support its role as regulator.

5.3.1 Department of Justice and Regulation

At a senior management level, the Chief Executive Officer of VCGLR and the Executive Director of OLGR meet monthly as part of the legislation and policy committee to discuss issues. There is evidence that new policy initiatives, such as the collection of wholesale alcohol sales data, are discussed and the implementation is tracked and reported on.

In recent years, VCGLR has implemented a number of policy changes in conjunction with OLGR. These have included major policy initiatives such as 'The Freeze'—an initiative that places restrictions on new late-night liquor licences in selected council areas. VCGLR and OLGR discussed ambiguities in the interpretation of the new ministerial guidelines, issued in 2015, to clarify such issues as what constitutes 'live music' and what support would be required from councils.

VCGLR and OLGR also maintain contact and cultivate less formal relationships at officer level as the need arises.

5.3.2 Victoria Police

VCGLR and Victoria Police have made various efforts to improve collaboration between the two agencies. Since 2012, VCGLR and Victoria Police have developed their relationship and entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU). They regularly communicate about enforcement issues, joint operations and other liquor licensing issues that may arise.

MoU and data sharing

VCGLR and Victoria Police signed an MoU in October 2015 that allows the two agencies to share relevant data.

The MoU was originally intended to be broader in scope and include performance and accountability measures for each agency. However, the final version only covers information sharing. There is scope for the MoU between VCGLR and Victoria Police to be broader, as originally intended.

Victoria Police shares with VCGLR data from its Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP) database, which stores information about crimes brought to the notice of police. This provides VCGLR with intelligence for compliance activities. Victoria Police also shares information on high‑harm premises with VCGLR. VCGLR provides Victoria Police with its database of liquor-licensed premises. There is evidence that both agencies are using the data they receive.

Consultation between VCGLR and Victoria Police

There is regular formal and informal contact between VCGLR and Victoria Police. At a formal level, there are terms of reference that guide quarterly executive meetings between VCGLR and Victoria Police. Members of VCGLR attend Victoria Police's Liquor Licensing Working Group.

Victoria Police also has a Liquor Licensing Unit based in VCGLR's office. This gives VCGLR's licensing and compliance divisions access to Victoria Police personnel for any questions they may have on Victoria Police information or advice.

Informally, the intelligence unit of VCGLR's compliance division speaks regularly with Victoria Police's Taskforce Razon about enforcement issues, joint operations and other liquor licensing issues that may arise.

5.4 Action on past audit recommendations

The recommendations from our 2010 report Taking Action on Problem Gambling and our 2012 report Effectiveness of Justice Strategies in Preventing and Reducing Alcohol-Related Harm have mostly been implemented. However, action has been too slow or incomplete in several key areas and more work needs to be done.

5.4.1 Taking Action on Problem Gambling (2010)

In our 2010 audit Taking Action on Problem Gambling, we examined the basis for and implementation of the government strategy for managing the harmful effects of gambling. We found that limited research into problem gambling meant initiatives included in the strategy were not supported by a robust evidence base. There was also an absence of baseline data and targets, and a weak evaluation framework, which meant that we were unable determine whether the strategy had reduced problem gambling.

We made seven recommendations, three directed to the former Department of Justice (DOJ) and four directed to the former gambling regulator, the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation (VCGR). All recommendations were accepted, except one directed to VCGR.

Figure 5C summarises agencies' progress in implementing the recommendations.

Figure 5C
Progress in implementing recommendations from our 2010 audit

No.

Recommendations

Status

1.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) should continue to address critical gaps in the evidence base through evaluation, its performance management and reporting system and research programs.

2.

The VCGR should further develop its template for social and economic impact assessments by:

  • expanding the data included in the assessments to more comprehensively consider the impact of gaming venues in communities
  • using trend data
  • taking account of the socio-economic profile of different areas within municipalities
  • examining how other indicators, such as gambling-related bankruptcy and homelessness, could be used to augment the analysis of social and economic impact.

✔✔

✔✔

✔✔

✔✔

4.

VCGR should revise the criteria for approving codes of conduct and self‑exclusion programs to allow actions taken by venue operators in implementing these initiatives to be audited.

✔✔

5.

VCGR should provide venue operators with documentation of the outcome of audits relating to responsible gambling initiatives.

6.

DOJ should:

  • evaluate the effectiveness of current responsible gambling training arrangements
  • expand the scope of the Responsible Gambling Ministerial Advisory Council's upcoming review of the learning principles to address quality assurance processes, standardised assessments, and multiple levels of training.

✔✔

✔✔

7.

DOJ should improve evaluation of its strategy, including establishing baseline data, and developing targets and performance indicators.

Note: ✘ = not commenced, ✔ = commenced, ✔✔ = completed.

Source: VAGO.

Evidence-based policy

In our report, we recommended that former DOJ (now the Department of Justice and Regulation) should continue to address critical gaps in the evidence base by conducting evaluations and using its performance management and reporting system and research programs. The department has partially addressed this recommendation.

The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation (VRGF) was established in 2011 to research gambling-related harm, provide frontline services to support Victorians affected by problem gambling, and foster greater understanding and awareness in the wider community. VRGF has published a range of research and data on gambling since 2011.

However, the department could not demonstrate that it has implemented or developed any recent strategies, initiatives or proposals for legislative change, based on research, evaluations undertaken or performance management and monitoring since 2011.

Evaluation of gambling strategies

We recommended that DOJ improve evaluation of its problem gambling strategy, including establishing baseline data and developing targets and performance indicators. The department has partially addressed this recommendation.

Victoria has been without an overarching strategy to address problem gambling since the last one ended in 2011. However, there have been some initiatives aimed at reducing the harm associated with problem gambling. The most significant initiative in recent years has been the introduction of a voluntary pre-commitment system for electronic gaming machines (EGM) in December 2015.

Evaluation of pre-commitment scheme for EGMs

All EGMs have been fitted with pre-commitment technology linked across the state, enabling players to track the time and money they spend on all EGMs and pre-commit a time or dollar amount if they choose to do so.

The department is implementing a two-stage evaluation process of the pre‑commitment scheme for EGMs. Stage 1 involved developing performance indicators to measure the success of the scheme. This has been completed and the indicators selected are sound.

Stage 2 of the evaluation involves measuring the success of the scheme using these indicators. The department expects this stage to be completed at the end of 2017. The department is currently measuring the impact of this scheme using these indicators.

In terms of early indications of the success of the pre-commitment scheme, a consultant engaged by the department in October 2015 to test the technology before its introduction using a sample of participants reported that:

  • 39 per cent of participants chose to use the time- or spending-limit functions
  • there were problems recruiting players to participate in the pilot testing.

Screening problem gamblers from the pilot testing program was a requirement of the ethics committee overseeing the program. This made it difficult to estimate the take up or effectiveness of the program in restricting the time or money spent by problem gamblers on EGMs.

Licence to monitor the pre-commitment scheme

Before introducing the pre-commitment scheme, Victoria had a licence in place with Intralot to monitor EGMs. The data collected by Intralot is used to examine the integrity of the system and expenditure on EGMs in Victoria.

As part of the introduction of the pre-commitment scheme, the government decided to amend the existing monitoring licence with Intralot to include monitoring of the pre‑commitment scheme for 11 years. An independent pricing review panel comprising technical and commercial consultants decided on the pre-commitment monitoring fee. It is unclear whether this arrangement represents value for money because it was not put out for tender. This approach was taken because advice to government indicated that it would be better not to introduce a parallel monitoring system for EGMs.

To cover the cost of Intralot monitoring the pre-commitment scheme, venues pay a fee of 74.5 cents per machine per day for the length of the licence, which amounts to more than $90 million. The fee is indexed each year according to the consumer price index. Should the government decide to end the pre-commitment program in 2017, following the formal evaluation, the state will be liable to pay Intralot a fee estimated to be more than $26 million.

Responsible service of gambling training

In our 2010 audit, we found problems with the quality and consistency of responsible service of gambling (RSG) training courses delivered by registered training organisations (RTO). We recommended that the department evaluate the effectiveness of RSG training arrangements and expand the scope of a planned review of the RSG training to include quality assurance processes, standardised assessments and multiple levels of training.

The department acted on this recommendation by providing advice that led to changes in legislation. These changes gave the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation power to approve the content and delivery of RSG training courses. New RSG courses will include an online training component, delivered by RTOs, and a practical face-to-face component delivered in venues by venue support workers associated with the VRGF. The practical component will focus on how to detect and manage problem gamblers. The relevant EGM venue staff will be required to repeat this training in full every three years.

While the new training model was approved in September 2016, it is worth noting that this recommendation took six years to implement. It was rolled out on 1 January 2017.

5.4.2 Effectiveness of Justice Strategies in Preventing and Reducing Alcohol-Related Harm (2012)

In our 2012 audit Effectiveness of Justice Strategies in Preventing and Reducing Alcohol-Related Harm, we found that poorly developed, implemented and evaluated initiatives had not been effective in reversing the trend of alcohol-related harm in Victoria. We made 10 recommendations directed to five agencies. At the time of audit, eight recommendations were accepted and two were under review. In this audit, we followed up our earlier recommendations directed to VCGLR, the former DOJ and Victoria Police.

Figure 5D summarises progress by agencies in implementing recommendations that were either accepted or under review following the audit.

Figure 5D
Progress in implementing recommendations from our 2012 audit

No.

Recommendations

Status

3.

DOJ should:

  • pilot the collection and analysis of liquor sales data from wholesalers to retailers
  • improve communication with stakeholders in the development and implementation of initiatives.

✔✔

✔✔

4.

DOJ should, together with the Department of Planning and Community Development and in consultation with local councils, overhaul the planning permit and liquor licence application process to:

  • better address community and health concerns
  • improve efficiency
  • clarify roles and responsibilities
  • incorporate an appropriate level of consultation and scrutiny.

6.

VCGLR should:

  • review its licensing administration practices
  • improve its records management and data integrity
  • exercise closer oversight over training providers to maintain standards and remove inconsistencies
  • tailor mandatory industry training to better meet attendees' needs.

✔✔

✔✔

7.

VCGLR and Victoria Police should:

  • develop a comprehensive and collaborative enforcement strategy to minimise harm more effectively and efficiently
  • carry out more targeted and intelligence-led enforcement activities.

8.

VCGLR should implement robust, efficient and, where appropriate, consistent practices across its compliance functions.

9.

Victoria Police should:

  • develop stronger central leadership for alcohol enforcement policy and activities
  • improve the quality of the data it collects on alcohol-related crime.

10.

DOJ should review the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 to facilitate more effective and efficient enforcement action.

Note: ✘ = not commenced, ✔ = commenced, ✔✔ = completed.

Note: Recommendations 1 and 2 were directed to the former Department of Health and related to health strategies.

Source: VAGO.

Evaluation of liquor strategies

We found the performance evaluation framework for the previous alcohol-related harm reduction strategy was not robust and there was no holistic evaluation of its impact. Although our audit did not include a recommendation on this matter, the department addressed the issue in 2014 by commissioning an evaluation framework for alcohol‑related policies.

The case study in Figure 5E provides an example of an instance where use of a robust evaluation framework may have better informed the decision to continue a particular harm‑reduction initiative, 'The Freeze'.

Figure 5E
Case study: 'The Freeze'

'The Freeze' is an initiative which restricts VCGLR from granting new late‑night liquor licences in the cities of Melbourne, Port Phillip, Stonnington and Yarra. According to the department, there are clear links between the density of late-night liquor licences and harm.

The Freeze was introduced in May 2008 and has been extended five times. The government commissioned an independent evaluation in 2013. It found that there was no clear conclusion on the effectiveness of The Freeze. Its success was difficult to assess as it was introduced at the same time as other liquor initiatives.

The Liquor Control Advisory Council (LCAC) provides advice on the problems of alcohol abuse and other matters referred to it by the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation. The department indicated that LCAC advised the minister to extend The Freeze in 2015 based on advice from a working group that had examined evidence on its impact. The department also recommended to the minister that The Freeze policy be extended. The Freeze was extended in July 2015 until 30 June 2019.

Notwithstanding this advice to the minister, the effectiveness of The Freeze has not been assessed using the alcohol-specific evaluation framework that has been in place since 2014. Without clear and consistent evaluation outcomes, the evidence base for this policy is unclear.

In July 2015, the minister introduced additional requirements for high-risk licences in these four local government areas. Businesses applying for late-night licences in these areas must now meet specific criteria including:

  • gaining the support of the local council
  • developing a venue management plan
  • providing evidence that the economic and social benefit of granting the licence will outweigh the impact of the licence on alcohol misuse and abuse and community amenity
  • ensuring the capacity of the proposed premises will not exceed 200 patrons.

This is positive and shows that a wider consideration of harm is possible in determining high-risk liquor licence applications. The department will be conducting an internal review of the new criteria for approval in line with the evaluation framework for alcohol policy.

Source: VAGO.

Stakeholder engagement

In our 2012 audit, we found that DOJ's consultation with stakeholders was inadequate. We also found that numerous ad hoc initiatives were implemented, which resulted in unintended financial consequences for small businesses. We recommended that DOJ improve communication with stakeholders in the development and implementation of initiatives.

DOJ responded to this recommendation by documenting and endorsing the Liquor and Gaming Stakeholder Engagement Strategy. The department used this strategy when developing the approach to collecting wholesale alcohol sales data. It consulted on the definition of 'small business' and requested comments from the liquor industry on a consultation paper about the proposed policy.

In addition, since our 2012 audit, the LCAC has been re‑established. It has 13 members from the community, industry and government.

Collection of wholesale alcohol sales data

We found that many of DOJ's activities directly or indirectly targeted reducing alcohol consumption rates, yet no data was available to measure this. We recommended that DOJ pilot the collection and analysis of liquor sales data from wholesalers to retailers to enable DOJ to measure consumption rates based on sales.

At the time of the audit, DOJ deemed that piloting the scheme was not feasible, but the department has since implemented the recommendation. The Gambling and Liquor Legislation Further Amendment Act 2014 requires Victorian liquor wholesalers to report their sales data every year. However, a ministerial order exempts small businesses who produce under 3 500 litres of pure alcohol per alcohol type from this reporting. Victoria is the only jurisdiction to have exempted small businesses from reporting. Wholesalers are now required to submit their sales data annually to VCGLR, and the first round of reporting was due in August 2016.

The department is currently finalising an MoU with VCGLR to address the privacy issues about sharing this data. It is expected that the data will be made public on a local government area basis. The data will give the department information about liquor consumption and will help it assess the effectiveness of liquor-related strategies over time.

Local councils and the liquor licensing process

In our 2012 audit, we found discrepancies between conditions for trading hours and patron numbers on planning permits and liquor licences for the same premises. Our report noted that licensees may inadvertently break the law if they do not understand that, if there are discrepancies, they are bound by the shorter trading hours and lower patron numbers.

We recommended that DOJ and the former Department of Planning and Community Development overhaul the liquor licence and planning process to better address community and health concerns, improve efficiency, clarify roles and responsibilities, and incorporate an appropriate level of consultation and scrutiny.

The department provided advice to the then minister on the issue and recommended legislative amendments to address the following issues:

  • liquor licence hearings are too expensive and adversarial in nature, limiting council participation
  • councils are unclear on the basis for VCGLR's liquor licence decision-making
  • councils have difficulty understanding and establishing the grounds for objection under the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998(LCRA).

The minister did not act on the advice and, at the time of this audit, the department had not provided this advice to the current minister. To partly address this recommendation, VCGLR, in consultation with the department, developed the Local Government Liquor Licence Objection Kit in June 2015. The kit provides information on why a council can object to a liquor licence under the LCRA and provides examples. However, most of the issues raised in our 2012 audit remain unaddressed.

Review of the Liquor Control Reform Act 1988

We found that ambiguity in the definitions of 'intoxication' and 'drunkenness' in the LCRA was limiting the effectiveness of enforcement activities. We recommended that DOJ conduct a review of the LCRA to facilitate more effective and efficient enforcement action.

A review of VCGLR's compliance inspections related to high-risk harms noted that its activities were hampered by overly technical legislative definitions and points of proof required to meet the evidence for intoxication.

The government has begun its review of the LCRA. It released the terms of reference and a consultation paper in early November 2016. The consultation paper seeks input from stakeholders on how the current compliance and enforcement provisions in the LCRA can be improved.

Data for reducing harm

In our 2012 audit, we found that the lack of a centralised database of alcohol-related harms limited DOJ's capacity to develop evidence-based strategies. It also limited the quality of decisions made on liquor licence applications and the ability of VCGLR and Victoria Police to carry out intelligence-led enforcement.

The Department of Health and Human Services has since established a consolidated centralised database for alcohol-related statistics, called AODStats. The AODStats database now incorporates Victorian emergency presentations data, hospital admissions data, road accident data, drug and alcohol ambulance attendances and data from Victoria Police's LEAP crimes database.

Victoria Police and the department both reported that they have explored options to enhance data made available through the AODStats database. For Victoria Police, further action depends on securing funding. The department is in the early stages of exploring opportunities to add wholesale alcohol sales data. However, it has not progressed at this stage. Agencies would greatly benefit from continuing to pursue options to improve the way they capture data on alcohol harm.

Alcohol enforcement policy and initiatives

We recommended that Victoria Police develop stronger central leadership for alcohol enforcement policy and activities. Following the audit, Victoria Police brought together different alcohol enforcement units including Taskforce Razon and its Liquor Licensing Unit, which was responsible for prosecuting breaches of the LCRA. Victoria Police also formed an Alcohol Advisory Group and a Liquor Licensing Working Group.

However, in early 2016, this centralised approach was abandoned. It is now unclear how Victoria Police will ensure strong central leadership for alcohol enforcement policies and activities. The role of the remaining groups centres on the provision of high-level strategic advice, which is not a substitute for central leadership.

Victoria Police needs to clearly document how it intends to ensure strong central leadership for alcohol enforcement policies and activities in its current devolved structure.

Data collection

In our 2012 audit, we also identified problems with Victoria Police's collection of data about alcohol‑related crime.

Victoria Police has a range of databases that collect data on alcohol-related crime. These include LEAP, Alcohol Drug Recorded Intelligence for Tasking (ADRIFT) and Interpose, Victoria Police's principal database for collecting and analysing intelligence. There is also the Fixed and Penalty Payments Offences (FPPO) database, owned by Civic Compliance Victoria.

We found Victoria Police's data to be incomplete and inaccurate. The systems and processes used to record and report alcohol-related crime were inefficient and incompatible with the needs of operational police. Alcohol offences were under‑reported because there was no mandatory protocol to record the presence of alcohol in a crime. We recommended that Victoria Police improve the quality of its data on alcohol-related crime.

Victoria Police has partially implemented this recommendation. It has made progress on improving the detail recorded in data entry and in reducing duplication of effort. Victoria Police has:

  • introduced a second version of the LEAP electronic data recorder (LEDR Mk2), which allows frontline police to directly enter data into LEAP, thereby reducing data duplication and double handling
  • changed the codes used to record information on crimes to more accurately capture whether an individual is affected by alcohol
  • begun recording whether alcohol is involved in family violence incidents.

However, Victoria Police has identified a range of limitations in its current methods of collecting this data and its databases, including:

  • data entry issues with LEAP, such as under-reporting of incidents, data errors in addresses and no mandatory reporting of the presence of alcohol
  • not all FPPO data being accessible to Victoria Police, hindering access to data about alcohol-specific offences
  • optional recording of data in ADRIFT, with some data being captured inconsistently and only captured from those in police custody
  • restricted access to Interpose, and an onerous process for obtaining information from the system.

Victoria Police has identified ways of improving the quality of its data and has taken some actions to date.

A collaborative enforcement strategy

In our 2012 audit, we found that there was no whole-of-government enforcement strategy for alcohol and, as a result, there were gaps in the approach to enforcement. We recommended that VCGLR and Victoria Police, as co-regulators, should develop a comprehensive and collaborative enforcement strategy to minimise harm more effectively and efficiently, and carry out more targeted, intelligence-led enforcement activities.

VCGLR and Victoria Police have not fully addressed this recommendation because they have not developed and formally adopted a joint enforcement strategy for alcohol‑related compliance activities.

Despite this, there is clear evidence of informal collaboration between the agencies, including regular communication on enforcement issues, joint operations and other liquor licensing issues that may arise. However, without an overarching strategy, there is no mutually agreed shared view on the enforcement approach for the liquor industry, leading to a risk of uncoordinated activities.

Victoria Police's current view is that the LCRA could be amended to include intoxication by alcohol and drugs. VCGLR agrees that legislative change is required to clarify this issue.

We also recommended that VCGLR and Victoria Police carry out more targeted, intelligence-led enforcement activities. VCGLR has begun reporting on the number of enforcement activities it undertakes with Victoria Police. In 2015–16, it conducted 35 joint activities with Victoria Police. There do not appear to be any guidelines on when or why joint activities were undertaken. It is therefore unclear whether these enforcement activities have been targeted and intelligence-led.

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