Queensland’s firearms register has been labeled “inaccurate” and “outdated” by the state’s auditor-general, in part due to integration poor integration with the state’s core policing database QPRIME.
In a damning audit released late last week, the Queensland Audit Office roundly criticised the system operated by Queensland Police Service (QPS) for the management of firearms and licence holders.
“The state’s firearms register is not accurate and up-to-date. The firearms register is no longer fit-for-purpose,” the report said.
“It relies on inefficient manual data entry and cannot provide real-time information necessary to support a modern risk- and intelligence-based regulatory function.”
The register, formally known as the weapons licensing management system, has been in place since 2010, allowing members of the public to apply for and renew weapons licences online.
It replaced a paper-based system which required applicants and licence holders to visit a police station to lodge applications that were then manually entered into systems.
The new system was expected to end this by automating the process of issuing licences – especially for existing licence holders – and the maintenance of records, freeing up QPS resources.
But the audit said that the online portal functionality was never implemented, leading to backlogs in processing and delays in information entering the system.
“QPS designed the system, intending to add an online portal with individual user accounts where licence holders, dealers, pistol clubs and shooting association could process transactions,” the report said.
“It never implemented this functionality.
“As a result, the weapons licensing unit’s workload includes time spent on administrative tasks to process information that would have been automatically entered via an online portal.
“This results in backlogs, delays in information entering the system, and a lack of real-time information.”
The audit was equally critical of the level of integration between the register and the state’s core policing system, the Queensland Police reporting information management exchange (QPRIME).
“QPS stores information in multiple locations – the firearms register, QPRIME and the QPS network drive,” the report said.
“The information systems are not fully interfaced and contain incomplete and out-of-date information on firearms and licence holders.
“This increases the risk that critical intelligence may not be acted upon.”
Poor integration has led to “multiple example of conflicting information” between QPRIME and the firearms register.
In one instance, a person with mental health concerns who had recently attempted self-harm was recorded as having had four weapons seized by police in QPRIME, but not in the firearms register.
The audit also found a “lack of reporting functionality in the firearms register”, which hampers QPS’ ability to “monitor or report compliance and ongoing suitability of firearms licence holders”.
“Integrating the information systems and improving the reporting functionality will give QPS greater assurance that licence holders are complying with their licence conditions,” the audit said.
The audit has recommended that QPS evaluate options for a new register to “ensure timely and accurate recording and transfer of all firearms and licence holders’ information”.
It also recommends the force “enhances integration” between the firearms system and QPRIME.
QPS has accepted all recommendations, and is already planning to introduce a new registry system in late 2023, pending “budget, resources and process changes”.
“QPS has completed a future business case for a future state registry system,” it said in its response to the audit.
“QPS are developing need identification and liaising with government to commence the procurement process.”