[LINK] Pondering Cost-recovery and Crowd-sourcing in Government

Martin Barry marty at supine.com
Tue Jul 28 14:32:25 AEST 2009

Howdy Linkers

I've had reason to deal with quite a few government departments recently
that have led me to ponder a couple of points. Apologies in advance for the
rambling rant.

- Government departments charging on cost-recovery basis

As my wife is German we've had many a run-in with the Dept of Immigration
and we'd always made jokes about the $2-3k permanent residency application
fee being danger money for the poor person who has to read our 5 page essay
about our relationship.

However it was the $100 for a "certificate of residency" [1] that really
stirred the pot. On a cost-recovery basis we should be charged for:

1) 5 minutes time of the person who served us
2) the sheet of paper and printing costs
3) some contribution to the IT costs of the immigration/citizen database

None of these is easy to calculate but I find it very hard to believe that
$100 is in the ball park. Do government departments bother trying to
calculate this or do they just make them up?

A similar experience was had with the NSW RTA who allow conversion of German
drivers licences to the equivalent local one. All went smoothly except the
EU drivers licence was in German and required translation. "Surely you've
seen an EU licence before?" No. "Surely you have documentation allowing you
to authenticate an EU licence?" No. And you must use the government
translation service. $80 for 4 words. Didn't solve the confusion about the
expiry date though! [2]

But we've had the reverse experience with NSW Births Deaths and Marriages.
You get prompter service for the same price if you physically attend their
office. So rather than posting your application in, allowing them to process
it anywhere in the state, you get better service by consuming their time and
resources in the CBD office. This leads me to...

- Crowd-sourcing data entry

The "6-8 weeks" that NSW BDM quotes for a birth registration and certificate
printing is bordering on ridiculous. So I was thinking that these processes
could be sped up by crowd-sourcing the data entry to the applicant. Have
them complete the form online, link with the hard copy through a unique ID
(or make the hard copy a print out of the data entered) and then processing
consists of a comparison rather than data entry.

But it seems I've been beaten to the punch by DFaT and passport
applications. Their website makes it easier to enter all the details online
and it generates a PDF for printing and submission. You can just download
a blank form PDF but it's harder to find. It would be interesting to hear if
it's had an impact on processing times and costs.


[1] The "CoR" allows the German embassay to confirm she hasn't taken
citizenship here, which would require her to relinquish her German one, and
hence our newborn son can acquire dual citizenship.

[2] German licences never expire. My in-laws have the paper ones they were
issued 30+ years ago.

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