Annual Report 2007-2008
 

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1. Overviews2. Performance3. Corporate4. Appendixes5. Financials6. Glossaries and Compliance Index

Your location: Performance > Outcome 2 > Output 2.1 > 2.1.2 Passport Services

OUTPUT 2.1: Consular and passport services

2.1.2 Passport Services

On this page: Overview :: Passport services :: Passport security :: Fraud detection and prevention ::Client Service Charter :: Outlook

Overview

The department continued to provide an efficient and responsive passport service to Australian travellers and expatriates living abroad despite the fact that 2007–08 was a record year for passport applications. While the number of passports issued was 12 per cent higher than in 2006–07, an average turnaround time of 4.6 days was maintained—well within the advertised client service commitment of 10 working days.

Security of the department’s passport issuance systems, and the passport booklet itself, continued to receive attention throughout the year. We gave particular emphasis to the process for determining eligibility for a passport, and we enhanced procedures to improve the integrity of passport decision-making processes. Work on a new and improved version of the passport continued with the rollout of the new document scheduled for 2009.

Passport services

The surge in demand for passports evident since the second half of 2006–07 continued throughout 2007–08, with the total number issued increasing by 12 per cent to a new annual record total of 1 531 445. As a result, the number of valid passports on issue rose to 9 602 106. A total of 1 470 500 passports were produced in Australia and 53 894 at the regional production centres in London and Washington. Of those produced in Australia, 27 981 were processed and printed in Canberra on behalf of Australian posts in the Asia-Pacific region. Australian diplomatic missions overseas produced a total of 7051 emergency issue passports.

The large increase in demand experienced since late 2006 has required careful management. In early 2007–08, we started using the new passport demand forecasting model commissioned toward the end of 2006–07. The model proved very successful in its first year of operation—the total number of applications received was only 4.2 per cent above the level predicted by the model. The accuracy of the new model proved to be crucial to the successful management of the increase in application rates.

Other recent innovations have significantly improved the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations. These innovations include the earlier decision to relocate most of the passport production process to a central facility, and the decision in late 2006–07 to establish a centralised facility in Canberra for determining eligibility for a passport. We undertook a full evaluation of the ‘centralised eligibility office’ in 2007–08 that led to the creation of a centralised ‘data verification unit’ in the Sydney Passport Office. The establishment of these facilities has strengthened the security of Australian passports, allowed the department to maintain world-leading client service standards while issuing more passports than ever before, and eased the burden on passport offices across Australia.

FIGURE 14. TRAVEL DOCUMENTS ISSUED

Figure 14: Travel Documents Issued

The number of passports reported as lost or stolen rose from 34 356 in 2006–07 to 35 119. While the actual number was higher than last year it represented a slight decrease in percentage terms when compared to the total number of passports issued. The number reported as lost or stolen also remained below the levels experienced prior to the introduction of the stringent measures in the Australian Passports Act 2005 to combat this problem.

The number of passports reported as lost in the mail rose slightly to 123 in 2007–08, from 110 in 2006–07. This increase was consistent with the increase in the number of passports issued. We continue to work with Australia Post to implement measures to reduce the incidence of lost passports.

Uptake of the department’s online passport services continued to grow in 2007–08. Twenty-three percent of all applications were made on computer-generated forms and 32 per cent more applications than the previous year were completed using online forms. The amount of inquiries handled by the Australian Passport Information Service also increased, with the number of calls up by 16 per cent to 1 675 841.

In 2007–08, the average turnaround time for passport issuance was 4.6 days. Although this was slightly longer than in 2006–07, it was well within the department’s advertised client service commitment of 10 working days and compared favourably with other benchmark countries. The booking system for interviews continued to be a successful client service initiative, with the average wait for clients in Australia with an appointment being about one minute.

Managing for the future

The passport issue rate has increased by 50 per cent over the past five years. Recent modelling indicates that the growth in applications will continue at about 100 000 a year, with annual demand reaching about 2 million within another five years.

In developing a plan to cope with the increased workload, we are dedicated to meeting our primary objectives of security, efficiency and responsiveness.

While our passport issuing systems have served us well to date, a review undertaken during 2007–08 revealed that some of them need to be replaced or upgraded within the next few years. We have recently moved to high-speed printing and chip-write machines, and are in the process of introducing more efficient quality assurance stations. Consideration is being given to the introduction of other high-capacity equipment.

During the year, the use of web-enabled services increased by 32 per cent, with 23 per cent of all passport applications being completed and lodged on internet-generated forms. We expect this trend to continue and are looking to generate efficiencies by expanding our online facilities.

 

Passport security

In 2007–08, the department continued to enhance the integrity of the passport issuing system, as well as the document itself, to ensure that the travelling public and border control agencies remain confident about the effectiveness of our identity management arrangements and the high degree of protection these offer against identity theft.

We gave particular emphasis to determining eligibility for a passport and enhancing procedures to improve the integrity of the passport decision-making process. These procedures were successfully trialled at the Sydney Passport Office during 2007–08 and will be adopted by all offices in Australia over the coming year.

The department concluded its research and development work on a new version of the Australian passport (the N-series) and completed testing on various overt and covert security features to be included in the new design. The new passport will incorporate a number of advanced printing and manufacturing techniques to produce Australia’s most secure passport to date. Along with strong security features, the new passport will also introduce a visually impressive and durable design. The rollout of the new document had to be postponed while a replacement for a critical component had to be identified. The new passport is now scheduled for release in 2009.

During 2007–08, we chaired the inaugural board of the Public Key Directory (PKD) established within the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to provide border control authorities with the tools needed to validate the data in the ePassports now being issued by many countries, including Australia.

The department introduced an improved version of its facial recognition program into the passport processing system during the year that will enhance our ability to confirm identity and detect fraud. The enhancements were developed as a result of lessons learned since the introduction of the program in 2005.

Fraud detection and prevention

The department sought to more closely align its risk assessment framework with the focus of its passport fraud detection, investigation and prosecution activities. This has improved our ability to detect and prosecute offences against the Australian Passports Act 2005. A total of 599 new passport fraud cases were detected by the department or referred to the Passport Fraud Section for investigation in 2007–08, compared with 706 during the previous year. This represented the first decline in the five years since the creation of a section dedicated exclusively to preventing and investigating fraud.

As a result of recommendations received from competent authorities in accordance with the Australian Passports Act 2005, the Minister for Foreign Affairs cancelled 69 Australian travel documents during the year. These documents were cancelled for reasons relating to Australian and international law enforcement, security and potential harmful conduct, including terrorism, child sex tourism, child abduction or people smuggling.

The department continued to work closely with the Attorney-General’s Department on elements of the National Identity Security Strategy, including the development of a Document Verification Service. We worked with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to increase the coverage and effectiveness of the APEC Regional Movement Alert System, designed to detect and prevent the illegal use of invalid travel documents.

Outcomes of passport fraud investigations

Following are some examples of the passport fraud investigations undertaken during 2007–08 and the outcomes of those investigations.

An Australian citizen was found guilty of making a false or misleading statement in relation to an Australian passport application contrary to section 29 of the Australian Passports Act 2005. This person forged a parental consent with the intention of obtaining an Australian passport to remove a child from another country. The person was fined $10 000 and ordered to pay costs of $6000.

A suspect wanted by police for another serious offence fraudulently obtained an Australian passport. When this person was arrested, he was also charged with making a false statement in relation to an application for an Australian passport contrary to section 29 of the Australian Passports Act 2005. He was subsequently sentenced to 9 months imprisonment and given 3 months recognisance for the passport offence.

The Passport Fraud Section carried out a forensic document examination on a number of counterfeit, fraudulent and genuine Australian passports seized in raids overseas. This examination was carried out at the request of authorities from the country concerned and the results will be used in criminal prosecutions in that country.

 

 

 

Client service charter

The department uses a range of mechanisms to obtain and monitor feedback on the passport services it provides to the Australian public in accordance with its client service charter.

Information about client satisfaction is received principally through feedback forms available at Australian passport offices. Feedback during the year indicated a satisfaction rate of 97.7 per cent. A low level of passport-related ministerial correspondence also indicated continued public satisfaction with passport services.

Outlook

The department’s business forecasting model predicts a 10 per cent growth in passport application rates through 2008–09. We will continue to implement strategies to ensure that our service-level commitments to the Australian public are maintained during this period of sustained growth. We will continue to identify opportunities to invest in more efficient systems and hardware to improve our responsiveness to this demand. The department will continue to rationalise its passport operations through further centralisation and possible outsourcing of non-core functions. As part of this exercise, we will examine options for simplifying our interview processes.

We will seek to improve the integrity of the passport issuing process by finalising the rollout of an ‘eligibility’ enhancement project to all passport offices in Australia.

The department will also continue to target passport fraud to protect the Australian community from identity theft.

 

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