Re­port re­turned

Rec­om­men­da­tions made to tighten up in­ven­tory man­age­ment and se­cu­rity con­trols

The Beacon (Gander) - - Front page - BY GLEN WHIFFEN

Au­di­tor Gen­eral: firearms miss­ing from N.L. wildlife divi­sion.

A spe­cial re­port re­leased Thurs­day by the prov­ince’s au­di­tor gen­eral has re­vealed that at least 20 firearms have been lost — and pos­si­bly up to 30 more un­ac­counted for — in the wildlife divi­sion of the De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Land Re­sources go­ing back a num­ber of years.

A RCMP in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the miss­ing firearms con­cluded no ev­i­dence of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

Au­di­tor Gen­eral Ju­lia Mul­la­ley’s re­port was com­pleted in re­sponse to a re­quest for an au­dit one year ago from the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment. The re­quest came a cou­ple months af­ter the wildlife divi­sion was re­aligned with the De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Land Re­sources from the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change.

Mul­la­ley’s re­port ac­knowl­edges that the de­part­ment has al­ready taken nec­es­sary ac­tions — many im­ple­mented dur­ing the course of the au­dit — to im­prove in­ven­tory man­age­ment and se­cu­rity of firearms and am­mu­ni­tion in the wildlife divi­sion.

There are a num­ber of rec­om­men­da­tions to fur­ther im­prove the sys­tem.

“We found a lot of weak­nesses with re­spect to record­keep­ing,” Mul­la­ley said. “For ex­am­ple, the in­ven­tory sys­tem was not up to date, it wasn’t ac­cu­rate, it wasn’t com­plete, it was miss­ing in­for­ma­tion.”

One is­sue was that the divi­sion re­quires a Wildlife Divi­sion As­set (WDA) num­ber to be as­signed to each firearm upon ac­qui­si­tion. As of Oc­to­ber 2017, there were 30 WDA num­bers that could not be ac­counted for in the in­ven­tory sys­tem.

“The de­part­ment did a lot of work to try to de­ter­mine that, and part of the is­sue was that there were prac­tices in the past where those as­set num­bers were as­signed to non-firearms such as pel­let guns, replica guns and starter pis­tols,” Mul­la­ley said.

“We found a lot of weak­nesses with re­spect to record-keep­ing. For ex­am­ple, the in­ven­tory sys­tem was not up to date, it wasn’t ac­cu­rate, it wasn’t com­plete, it was miss­ing in­for­ma­tion. “But we don’t know. It is a pos­si­ble an­swer to it, but it is not a de­fin­i­tive an­swer. And at the end of the day, no one could ac­count for the 30 num­ber.”

Other than those 30, there were 20 firearms de­ter­mined to be lost and they have now been re­ported to the fed­eral gun registry as such. Another six firearms were recorded at the fed­eral registry, but they could not be found in the in­ven­tory.

“Un­der the fed­eral leg­is­la­tion, any ac­qui­si­tions or dis­po­si­tions or any lost items, stolen items, any­thing like that has to be re­ported to the fed­eral registry,” the au­di­tor gen­eral noted.

The whole is­sue came to light fol­low­ing a reg­u­lar in­ter­nal re­view of in­ven­tory pro­cesses in March 2017 by the De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Land Re­sources. The in­ter­nal re­view de­ter­mined there were anom­alies in in­ven­tory con­trol.

As of Oc­to­ber 2017, ac­cord­ing to the divi­sion’s in­ven­tory sys­tem, there were 476 firearms in the in­ven­tory. That num­ber in­cluded 158 func­tional firearms, 294 non-func­tional firearms (used for ed­u­ca­tional cour­ses through­out the prov­ince), 13 firearms with­out func­tion­al­ity clas­si­fi­ca­tion and 11 firearms listed as be­ing lost.

There were dis­crep­an­cies and in­ac­cu­ra­cies found in the num­bers and so Mul­la­ley’s of­fice was asked to con­duct a for­mal au­dit into poli­cies and pro­ce­dures.

The RCMP was also asked to have a look, but Mul­la­ley said the au­dit and the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion were sep­a­rate.

“The main ob­jec­tive was whether the de­part­ment had an ef­fec­tive sys­tem of con­trols in place around man­age­ment and safe­guard­ing of the in­ven­tory on firearms, specif­i­cally around the wildlife divi­sion,” Mul­la­ley said. “The de­part­ment it­self had iden­ti­fied some con­cerns and it was on that ba­sis that they asked us to come in.

The re­port noted that there are in­her­ent risks as­so­ci­ated with in­ven­tory man­age­ment in­clud­ing in­ac­cu­rate in­ven­tory records, loss, theft and in­ap­pro­pri­ate or unau­tho­rized ac­cess to and use of in­ven­tory.

Some other is­sues of note in the re­port in­clude that four per­sonal firearms be­long­ing to an em­ployee had been stored at the wildlife divi­sion stor­age fa­cil­ity in Brake’s Cove — there is no for­mal pol­icy re­gard­ing the stor­age of per­sonal firearms.

There was un­cer­tainty about who had a key to the firearms room at one of the stor­age fa­cil­i­ties. To ad­dress those con­cerns, the de­part­ment changed the ac­cess code to the se­cured room within the fa­cil­ity that con­tained the firearms room, and also changed the lock to the firearms room.

The kits con­tain­ing non­func­tional firearms and dummy am­mu­ni­tion, used to de­liver the Cana­dian Firearms Safety and Hunter Ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses, were found to have one com­bi­na­tion code for all cab­i­nets and firearms kits through­out the prov­ince. A com­monly used code re­duces in­tended se­cu­rity fea­tures.

Key rec­om­men­da­tions say the de­part­ment should:

Es­tab­lish and com­mu­ni­cate com­pre­hen­sive poli­cies and pro­ce­dures to guide staff in the ac­qui­si­tion, dis­po­si­tion, record­ing, stor­age, use, move­ment and mon­i­tor­ing of firearms and am­mu­ni­tion;

En­sure the in­ven­tory sys­tem is com­plete and ac­cu­rate by up­dat­ing in­for­ma­tion on a timely ba­sis and main­tain­ing trans­ac­tion his­tory;

En­sure the Fed­eral Firearms Registry is up­dated on a timely ba­sis;

En­sure the se­cure ac­cess to, and stor­age of, firearms and am­mu­ni­tion;

Con­sider seg­re­gat­ing cus­tody and record keep­ing du­ties of staff in­volved with firearms in­ven­tory;

And de­velop an over­sight frame­work for mon­i­tor­ing in­ven­tory man­age­ment pro­cesses.

Fish­eries and Land Re­sources Min­is­ter Gerry Byrne said his de­part­ment sup­ports the rec­om­men­da­tions.

“Hav­ing the di­vi­sions of en­force­ment, forestry and wildlife, which all re­quire the use of firearms, un­der the new De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Land Re­sources, as­sisted in a more rapid as­sess­ment of the chal­lenges faced, and en­act­ing an ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion,” Byrne said.

“As the au­di­tor gen­eral also notes, fur­ther ef­forts are nec­es­sary to en­sure the de­part­ment has an ef­fec­tive sys­tem of in­ter­nal con­trol to safe­guard firearms and am­mu­ni­tion, and those ef­forts are ei­ther fully com­pleted or well un­der­way.”

Byrne noted ac­tions taken as a re­sult of the au­dit, in­clud­ing:

Con­sis­tent firearms pol­icy ap­plied across the de­part­ment; devel­op­ment of new de­part­men­tal pol­icy is in progress;

Firearms con­trol as­signed to the com­pli­ance divi­sion, En­force­ment and Re­source Ser­vices Branch, to en­sure the safe­guard­ing and pro­tec­tion of firearms;

Firearms am­mu­ni­tion kept in ac­cept­able stor­age through­out the prov­ince, with site-spe­cific com­bi­na­tion locks be­ing im­ple­mented;

And all am­mu­ni­tion sched­uled for de­struc­tion has been de­stroyed in ac­cor­dance with pol­icy.

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