Management and Promotion of Citizenship Services
The objectives of the audit were to determine whether: citizenship services were planned based on a risk assessment, especially in relation to fraud; and were monitored and reported on appropriately; decision-making was accurate, consistent and in line with relevent laws and policies and was supported by appropriate training and quality assurance (QA) mechanisms; client and outsourced services were managed effectively; and promotion strategies were effective and have been evaluated appropriately.
Citizenship services are delivered by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA). The objective of the citizenship services provided by DIMIA is to deliver high quality, efficient administration of the Australian Citizenship Act 1948 (the Act) and its regulations.
In order to deliver this output, DIMIA:
- makes decisions on applications for grant of citizenship;
- makes other decisions under the Act, including the registration of citizenship by descent, the provision of evidence of Australian citizenship, resumption and loss of citizenship;
- oversights the management of the conferral of citizenship; and
- provides other citizenship services.
Citizenship services are provided through a Central Office located in Canberra, regional offices throughout Australia (in both capital cities and other regional centres), Australian diplomatic missions and through a third party provider, Australia Post. Once approved by the department, citizenship is conferred at conferral ceremonies, usually public ceremonies conducted by local government councils.
Audit objectives and scope
The objectives of the audit were to determine whether:
- citizenship services were planned based on a risk assessment, especially in relation to fraud; and were monitored and reported on appropriately;
- decision-making was well-based, consistent and in line with relevant laws and policies and was supported by appropriate training and quality assurance (QA) mechanisms;
- client and outsourced services were managed effectively; and
- promotion strategies were effective and have been evaluated appropriately.
The scope of the audit included an examination of arrangements at DIMIA's Central Office and in three State Offices (Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide) to assess the effectiveness of citizenship services, particularly the accuracy of the processing of applications for Australian citizenship.
DIMIA's Outcome 2 Business Plan for 2002–03 met the audit criteria, including being based on a risk assessment. The Plan provided a detailed framework for citizenship services for DIMIA's Central Office and its State/Territory Offices. A proposed rolling two year plan for 2004–05 and 2005–06 was circulated to citizenship services managers in late August 2004. DIMIA has agreed to take into account the issues raised by this audit when finalising the plan.
Performance information, monitoring and reporting at the program level was useful for decision-making.
The ANAO found that the risks associated with the potential for fraud in providing citizenship services were adequately addressed in DIMIA's overall Fraud Control Plan. The department was able to provide information on allegations received and action taken. The ANAO noted that fraud control arrangements within DIMIA were being continually strengthened.
Decision-making by DIMIA staff administering citizenship services was generally undertaken in accordance with legislative requirements and departmental procedures. Decsion-making was supported by QA arrangements. To further support sound decision-making the department could consider the use of weighted samples for QA purposes and also the conduct of independent reviews. Significant variations between DIMIA offices in meeting timeliness standards for decision-making needed to be analysed to determine whether action is required to improve performance in some regions.
In order to better manage the variable workload in citizenship services, the department could use, to the greatest extent possible, multi-discipline teams and appointment systems. The ANAO has made a recommendation to this effect. Analysis of variations in cost and timeliness of services between DIMIA offices and better performance information regarding conferrals would further enhance the department's ability to manage client service.
DIMIA's promotion of citizenship services was effective as demonstrated by the high proportion of those born overseas who are Australian citizens. The department had taken substantial action to implement the recommendations by the Australian Citizenship Council that had been agreed by the Government in May 2001.
The ANAO concluded that DIMIA's citizenship services were well managed and effectively promoted. The department had a range of appropriate information available in regard to citizenship services, including by region. However, it would be useful for DIMIA to analyse this information with a view to further improving client service. DIMIA was, in line with better practice, seeking to improve its data analysis and all aspects of its citizenship services.
The ANAO recommends that, in order to improve client services, the department:
a) use appointment systems and multi-discipline teams to the greatest extent possible; and
b) make citizenship services available to clients in normal business hours, including on Wednesday afternoons.
The department agreed with qualification to the recommendation.
Overall, DIMIA welcomed the finding that citizenship services are well managed and effectively promoted. The department noted that the report has identified some opportunities for refinement to existing activities and processes. Consideration will be given to these as part of the continuous improvement of business practices and management in the citizenship program.