The ACIC works with Australian police agencies and accredited bodies to deliver the NPCS. The NPCS allows people to apply for a nationally coordinated criminal history check, previously known as a police check.
This check is often required when applying for employment, Australian citizenship, appointment to positions of trust, or a variety of licensing and registration schemes.
The NPCS facilitates more than 6.2 million checks each year, which may result in more than 8,000 referrals to police each day. Figure 2.10 outlines the checking process.
Figure 2.10: National Police Checking Service process
System availability reporting details the percentage of time systems were available, excluding scheduled outages, during the reporting period. We measure the national availability by user notifications of outages impacting multiple jurisdictions. An outage has to impact each jurisdiction in order to be considered a national outage.
An agreed availability benchmark is developed by the ACIC Board for each of our systems that directly support police operations, including police checks. Benchmarks are based on usage requirements and are generally in line with previous years.
As Table 2.8 shows, the NPCS exceeded the availability benchmark in 2020–21.
Table 2.8: National Police Checking Service system availability
National Police Checking Service/NPCS Support System
Timeliness of NPCS checks
This measure is not only an ACIC performance measure but one shared by our police partners and accredited bodies providing this service to the wider community. The checking process may be complicated and, in a small number of cases, may cause delays beyond the agreed timeframes.
As Table 2.9 shows, the timeliness benchmarks for the NPCS were not met in 2020–21.
Table 2.9: National Police Checking Service checks completed on time
Standard checks: 10 business days
Urgent checks: 5 business days
✘ = Benchmark not met
Until March 2021, the ACIC was on track to meet the board-agreed benchmarks for NPCS checks. A number of factors caused the measure to slip from ‘met’ to ‘not met’.
As COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and hiring practices recommenced, the number of requests for national police checks increased to unprecedented levels. This influx was not predicted in any modelling. As a result, police were not resourced for the workload to increase so significantly, particularly in comparison to the downturn experienced in 2020. In addition, some police partners experienced workforce impacts due to local COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns.
In 2020–21, the number of requests exceeded 6 million, as shown in Table 2.10. This is the highest number since the NPCS was established and 16.36 per cent higher than the 4-year historical average.
Table 2.10: Volume of National Police Checking Service checks
Number of nationally coordinated criminal history checks processed
⬆ = greater than the historical average
Accredited bodies are entrusted with access to the NPCS Support System in order to submit applications and retrieve check results for consenting applicants. Having access to check results supports organisations to determine the suitability of applicants for positions of trust in an efficient and timely manner.
To ensure that accredited bodies are complying with requirements, compliance audits are undertaken by the NPCS Assurance Program. Audits may also be undertaken following allegations of non-compliance, including allegations from sources within the ACIC, partner agencies or external public organisations or from members of the public.
If non-compliance is identified by any audit activities, the accredited body is given the opportunity to rectify the issue. If the accredited body is unable or unwilling to rectify the issue to the satisfaction of the NPCS, the ACIC may commence termination of the accredited body’s contractual arrangement.
In 2020–21, the ACIC undertook 112 audits as part of the NPCS Assurance Program. As a result, 7 accredited bodies were referred for further investigation following alleged non-compliance.
Table 2.11 shows the number of compliance audits undertaken.
Table 2.11: National Police Checking Service audits of compliance
Activity being audited
Provision of application data
Submission of purpose description
Volunteer check type submission
Provision of nationally coordinated criminal history check results
We offer 5 types of education support to accredited bodies:
2 mandatory modules for newly accredited bodies—User Acceptance Testing and NPCS Induction
3 optional modules for all accredited bodies—NPCS Support Program, NPCS Information and Quality Assurance Education.
The user acceptance testing and induction training provides accredited bodies with the required information for conducting NPCS checks. During this training, accredited bodies are given access to a training environment which requires that they submit mock checks and demonstrate the required skills before they are granted access to the production system. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the induction sessions were conducted individually over the phone with newly accredited bodies.
Once new user training has been completed, the NPCS Support Program is initiated. This program provides the accredited body with ongoing education and guidance. After several months, the accredited body undergoes quality assurance activities. These activities are completed on a regular basis to monitor and provide education around the correct submission of the check.
NPCS information sessions are conference-style events for accredited bodies. These sessions are designed to provide further education and training to accredited bodies to help them better understand their contractual obligations. Guest speakers from across the Australian Public Service are engaged to share information and knowledge across a number of areas, including identity and identity verification, information security, technology, and community safety. While these sessions are a priority for the ACIC, they were suspended during 2020–21 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Table 2.12 provides details of the education sessions conducted in 2020–21.
Table 2.12: National Police Checking Service education sessions
Type of education support
User Acceptance Testing
NPCS Support Program
Quality Assurance Education
During 2020–21, we determined that running the sessions does not indicate how we are performing under this measure. We will continue to run education sessions for accredited bodies; however, this criterion will not be a performance indicator going forward and was not included in the 2021–22 corporate plan.