Passport Services : Sub-program 2.1

Description

The Passports Branch in the Passports, Services and Security Division administers this sub-program. Under the authority of the Passports Act 1938, the department provides secure travel documents to eligible Australian citizens through the department’s offices in each State and Territory capital city and in Newcastle, as well as through most Australia Post offices and through Australian diplomatic and consular posts overseas. Since 1983, official Australia Post offices have been authorised to provide passport application services.

Table 28

Passport Services (2.1) Resources Summary


 

1997-98 Actual ($’000)
1998-99 Budget ($’000)
1998-99 Budget and Additional Estimates ($’000)
1998-99 Actual ($’000)

Appropriations

 

 

 

 

Running costs

53 034

52 675

54 272

63 660

Other program costs

1

4

4

1

Total appropriations

53 034

52 679

54 276

63 661

Less adjustments

716

1 037

1 626

1 864

Total outlays

52 318

51 642

52 650

61 797

Staff years

298

n.a.

n.a.

324

Revenue (passport fees)

108 590

n.a.

n.a.

119 457

n.a.: Not applicable.

Objectives, Performance Indicators and Result

Objective



To issue secure, high-quality travel documents to eligible Australian citizens in an efficient and cost-effective manner.


Indicator



Improvement of the department’s passport services.

During the year in review, the department issued 1 097 014 passports, an increase of 7.7 per cent over the previous year. We anticipate a further increase of 10.3 per cent for 1999&endash;2000.

Figure 33

Passport Services (2.1) Organisational Chart

Figure 33

Table 29

Number of Australian Passports Issued


Year
Number of passports issued
1998&endash;99

1 097 014

1997&endash;98

1 018 526

1996&endash;97

908 548

1995&endash;96

707 061

1994&endash;95

687 088

In line with the Government’s Charter of Service in a Culturally Diverse Society, the department introduced the Passports Australia Client Service Charter in January 1999. This charter demonstrates our commitment to providing a high-quality passport service to all Australians.

As part of our more focused approach to customer service, in February 1999 we introduced a centralised system to record and follow up client complaints and concerns. When we receive a client complaint or concern&emdash;over the counter, by telephone, via the Internet or through ministerial correspondence&emdash;we register the details in Canberra and follow up as appropriate. Previously, such matters were not handled centrally.

Mr Downer with Mr Bill Tweddell at the launch of the new edition of Hints for Australian TravellersKey messages for Australians travelling overseas include: obey local laws, take out travel insurance, and don't carry drugs. These messages, together with other useful tips, are passed to every Australian receiving a passport (over 1 million in 1998&endash;99) in our booklet, Hints for Australian Travellers. The booklet, part of our ongoing information campaign, also includes advice on preparing for your trip, staying healthy, dual nationality and local customs. The photo shows Mr Downer with Mr Bill Tweddell, then First Assistant Secretary, Public Affairs and Consular Division, at the launch of the new edition of Hints for Australian Travellers at the International Media Centre in Sydney in December 1998. photo: Peter Kelly

 

Clients are currently able to access passport information and services through our dedicated website (http://www.dfat.gov.au/passports/). This site will soon also enable clients to apply for personalised renewal application forms online. Since April 1999, we have provided a dedicated email address to which clients can send their feedback or questions. In the three months of operation of this address, we have received approximately 1 000 emails.

In July 1998, the department introduced new passport renewal guidelines. Under these guidelines, Australians living overseas are now able to renew their passports via mail or courier to their nearest Australian diplomatic or consular mission. We have also simplified the passport renewal process for Australians overseas who lodge application forms in person.

Since 1985, the department’s Australian Passport Information Service has provided all Australians, including those in regional areas, with inexpensive access to comprehensive information on Australian passport services. Throughout 1998&endash;99, we continued to provide this service Australia-wide for the cost of a local call, seven days a week. This service received 1.2 million telephone inquiries, a 24 per cent increase on the previous year. Approximately 562 000 of these calls were responded to personally by an operator, with the remainder using the system’s integrated voice recording.

The department upgraded this service by employing additional operators and installing additional telephone lines. We are also changing the voice recording in response to client concerns about system delays.

Table 30

Calls to the Australian Passports Information Service Compared with Passports Issued


 

1994&endash;95
1995&endash;96
1996&endash;97
1997&endash;98
1998&endash;99

Number of calls to Information Service

527 632

568 305

635 500

969 000

1 200 000

Number of passports issued

687 088

707 061

908 548

1 018 526

1 097 014

 

Indicator



Client satisfaction with passport services.

From a total of 1 097 014 passports issued last year, we received approximately 3 900 complaints. This rate suggests overall client satisfaction with the quality of passport services. However, in the coming year we will need to address the continuing increase in the number of complaints to the Australian Passport Information Service. The majority of complaints concerned the quality of the photographic image, the Australian Passport Information Service voice recording, and the use of ordinary mail to deliver passports. Using our new central recording system, we endeavour to address all significant client complaints or concerns and to follow these up with appropriate action.

Table 31

Estimated Number of Passport-Related Complaints for 1998&endash;99


Source

Number

Ministerial correspondence

208

Other correspondence (average 3 per week)

156

Client contact register (pro rated)

149

State and Territory offices

150

Australian Passport Information Service (telephone, average 10 per day x 326)

3 260

Total

3 923

 

Indicator



The successful
implementation of the revised processing system and achievement of projected efficiencies and cost savings.

Changes to our passport operations, including the introduction of new technology, have led to efficiencies. Examples of these efficiencies are as follows:

  • Elimination of calls to non-lodging parents to confirm consent for the issue of children’s passports has achieved savings in phone charges of approximately $75 000 per annum.
  • Streamlined handling of found passports, including simpler disposal arrangements, has delivered workplace efficiencies (although the precise cost savings cannot be clearly defined).
  • New proof of identity requirements have led to efficiencies through a reduction in telephone calls to people from specific occupational categories to confirm their status. (Electronic data matching is now possible for identifiers who have known an applicant for 12 months and who either hold an Australian passport or appear on the Australian Electoral Roll.)

Turnaround time for passport issues varied between seven and 10 days Australia-wide. However, during the pilot phase of the new passport processing system currently under development (Project Delta), there were excessive delays during one month in the Brisbane Passports Office. Project Delta will deliver significant staff savings when fully implemented.

Indicator



The extent to which enabling technology is successfully implemented.

The scanning, imaging and workflow technology being introduced as part of Project Delta remains at pilot stage and is thus yet to achieve projected efficiencies. The department is currently working with the contractor, CV Services International Pty Ltd, to expedite software development, with the aim of bringing the Project Delta process online throughout Australia by March 2000.

The department completed implementation of the highly secure DAWN passport printing process in all offices in early 1998. The printers are now nearing the end of their service life and the department is working with the manufacturer and several other suppliers to develop a replacement.

Indicator



Maintenance of the integrity of the document and issuing process.

To improve the integrity of the passport issuing process, we have scanned 5.85 million of a total 8 million passport dossiers for integration with Project Delta. When completed, this will enable better checking of passport applications by easy viewing of photographs and signatures. Formerly, information on an applicant’s previous applications had to be retrieved from archives, a procedure often taking several days.

Indicator



The level of
staff acceptance of job redesign.

Delays in implementing the scanning, imaging and workflow technology being introduced as part of Project Delta have also delayed the accompanying job redesign. This will now occur during the 1999&endash;2000 financial year.

The department is paying considerable attention to effective management of workplace change, including through the appointment of designated ‘change managers’ at every passport office. These managers ensure that staff are kept informed of developments in the project, and they provide a conduit through which feedback is channelled.

Indicator



Improved productivity of passport services.

Passport issues increased by 7.7 per cent overall this financial year, to 1 097 014. This was achieved against a reduction of 6.7 per cent in passport production staff members, from 239 to 223 in State and Territory passport offices. The number of passports issued per staff member is 4 596, up 15 per cent from the previous year.

Table 32

Number of Staff Issuing Passports Compared with Number of Passports Issued


1994&endash;95
1995&endash;96
1996&endash;97
1997&endash;98
1998&endash;99

Total number of travel documents issued

687 088

707 061

908 548

1 018 526

1 097 014

Documents issued by overseas posts

38 603

42 112

57 784

61 505

72 144

Documents issued by passport staff in Australia

648 485

664 949

850 764

957 021

1 024 870

Number of passport production staff in Australia

172

221

252

239

223

Documents issued per passport production member in Australia

3 770

3 009

3 376

4 004

4 596


Indicator



Improvement in contract management, as assessed by the level of cost savings achieved.

Renegotiation of the contract with Leigh-Mardon for the production of passport booklets has realised a reduction of 9 per cent in the cost of producing passport booklets over the life of the contract. Our adoption of a standard-size cardboard envelope and use of ordinary mail to return passports to clients have led to savings on postage costs of $1 million per annum. The introduction of new forms and simplified procedures also enabled us to negotiate an overall reduction in commission rates paid to Australia Post, resulting in a 28 per cent saving on the cost of processing ordinary passport applications, and a 22 per cent saving on processing passport renewal applications. Nevertheless, the overall costs of providing passport services increased in 1998&endash;99 as a result of a significant investment in new technology, a greater number of passport applications, and a sharp increase in calls to the Australian Passport Information Service.


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