13-2021: Import Document Assessment Delays

29 January 2021

Who does this notice affect?

All clients who submit documentation to the department for import assessment via the Cargo Online Lodgement System (COLS) or other departmental approved systems.

What has changed?

The department acknowledges that clients are currently experiencing delays in receiving their directions and advises that all efforts are being made to manage increased workloads in order to meet published service standards in the Client Service Charter while also effectively managing biosecurity and imported food risks.

The department has seen an unprecedented demand for services including:

  • document lodgements in COLS increasing on average 6% month on month since August 2020.
  • a 20% increase in imported food and dual (Biosecurity/Food) lodgements.
  • Self-Assessed Clearance (SAC) workload increasing by 58% since May 2020 compared to the same period 2019. 
  • 62% increase of clients lodging LRNs seeking same day assessment (this has resulted in an unmanageable escalated queue)

What are we doing to manage immediate workload demand?

The department has implemented a range of strategies to address immediate concerns with the management of workload. These include:

  • Diverting appropriately skilled resources, on a temporary basis, from other areas to augment capacity to assist with document assessment, bookings and phone call workload. 
  • Return of staff working from home to offices nationally in line with State based COVID restrictions.  This is expected to help speed up assessment timeframes due to better connectivity to departmental systems (i.e. less reliance on staff’s home based Internet Service Providers that have been struggling though unprecedented numbers of Australians working from home.)
  • Fast tracking the training of further Imported Food Assessment officers to help address the significant and unexpected increase in Imported Food LRNs.
  • Developing an automation solution in the SAC environment.
  • Allocation of reasonable amounts of overtime for staff to process lodgements outside core business hours.
  • Last week, we further implemented a strategy/process that will enable us to identify and prioritise those clients in the escalated queue that have lodged early - prioritising these clients along with those that are genuinely in the escalated queue (i.e. reducing the priority of those LRNs that are being lodged late in hopes of getting priority clearance).

The Biosecurity Operations Division will also be expediting the progression of initiatives to help minimise the department’s involvement in lower risk activities where there is a proven compliance history. Initial discussions were held with peak industry bodies on 22 December, with work commencing internally within the department directly after that meeting.  More information will be forthcoming in February regarding this work.

We are also in the final stages of development with our document assessment automation, which will reduce manual, resource intensive functions and speed up the assessment process.

There are a number of other medium/longer term initiatives underway, however we recognise these larger reforms will not address the immediate challenges we are experiencing.

How can clients assist?

Aligned with the workload increase, the department has seen late document lodgements in COLS increase by 62% from last year. The department would like to advise clients of information that may assist in avoiding delays in document assessment:

  • Please ensure that documents are lodged well in advance of arrival of the goods (noting the recent changes we have made to assist the prioritisation process as outlined above).
  • Ensure that documents and other information is lodged completely and accurately and in line with the departments minimum documentary requirements and import conditions.
  • Do not provide unnecessary documents, as this can result in longer assessment times as we work through sometimes 50+ documents to find the 4 or 5 required by the minimum documents policy.
  • Ensure any specific additional information is included in the ‘additional information’ field in COLS.
  • Please do not repeatedly call or email the department checking on the status of a lodgement for document assessment – this compounds the delays.
  • Regardless of the expected assessment outcome, nominate a valid Approved Arrangement (AA) inspection location, preferably with the AA registration number and name, to avoid additional processing delays.

Further information

Thank you for your understanding, and for your ongoing patience and cooperation. The staff are highly dedicated to their work and doing everything within their power to deal with the high workload volumes in a timely and effective manner.

Please contact the department on 1800 900 090 or email Import Assessment.

 

Last reviewed: 23 March 2021
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