Australian Border Force (ABF) staff have delivered a scathing assessment of their senior leaders, internal data obtained by the ABC has revealed.
Former commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg was sacked last week for helping his girlfriend get a job with the agency.
Just weeks before Mr Quaedvlieg took paid leave in 2015, amid investigations into his conduct, staff recorded their views in a confidential survey.
The results, obtained by the ABC under Freedom of Information laws, paint a picture of sluggish progress in fixing cultural issues.
The survey showed staff had several issues with those at the highest levels of the agency:
Only 22 per cent said their communication was effective
Fewer than one in three said senior staff set a clear, strategic direction
A quarter said senior executives were of a high quality.
The public sector union said the results were “striking, but no surprise to us”.
“Frankly, the place is a mess,” union secretary Nadine Flood said.
Survey doesn’t reflect workforce ability: management
Mr Quaedvlieg was the inaugural commissioner after the former customs department was combined with parts of the immigration department in 2015.
Before being jettisoned over several breaches, Mr Quaedvlieg earned $600,000 a year.
ABF strongly denied that its workforce problems, reflected in the survey results, had weakened its ability to protect Australians from unwanted drugs, weapons and people.
“Yes, we’ve had engagement issues with our staff,” Acting Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram told the ABC.
“[But] if you look at our operational results, over the recent period of time, we’re just achieving record targets and record results.”
Since becoming Acting Commissioner, Mr Outram said he had forced senior executives to meet more frequently with frontline staff.
Forty per cent of ABF workers said they were satisfied with the recognition they received.
One in three think they are paid fairly
The survey also found one in three staff thought they were paid fairly for their work.
Home Affairs staff, including those in the ABF, have not received a pay rise since 2013, amid a bitter dispute between the department and the union that is now before the Fair Work Commission.
“What government has done to [immigration department] and Border Force staff is frankly grotesque,” Ms Flood said.
Acting Commissioner Outram said there was “no question” the pay row had affected staff, but insisted it had not compromised operations.
“I very much hope that is resolved as soon as possible so we can move on,” he said.