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Dublin: 18 °C Tuesday 11 August, 2020
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€13 million contract for new IT system and 230 new staff as Passport Service aims to cope with demand

It comes as part of the passport reform programme and, despite the rise in complaints in recent years, Coveney is confident it’ll make a difference.

Coveney said technology upgrades and increase staffing will improve the service
Coveney said technology upgrades and increase staffing will improve the service
Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

THE DEPARTMENT OF Foreign Affairs (DFA) has issued an invitation to tender worth €13 million for the provision of a new IT system to process passports.

This comes alongside the recruitment of 230 temporary clerical workers as the Passport Service expects the number of applications to climb again this year, after a record year in 2019.

Last summer, the secretary general at the Department of Foreign Affairs apologised to people who’d experienced delays in their passport application, while recent data shows the number of complaints about the service has increased almost fivefold since 2016.

Minister Simon Coveney has said that he’s satisfied that technology upgrades and increased staff will be sufficient to meet the anticipated demand during the peak season this year.

Processing system

The IT system sought by the DFA is envisaged as a “main back office processing system and system of record for all passport applications and associated passport holder information”. 

According to the tender documents, this project is “central to the delivery of the vision of the passport reform programme”.

It’s a complete overhaul of the existing legacy and systems, and the successful tenderer will have to build, test and deploy the new system as well as providing on-going support.

It will have 600 users across the four offices, with the majority of these being permanent workers.

The system must also handle the receipt of passport applications through some of the various means you can apply – including online, by post and face-to-face.

It’ll also allow workers with a “single view” of a person’s record including their previous application history, their current and previous photos, and correspondence with the person.

Peak season

Replying to a parliamentary question during the week, Minister Coveney said that passport applications last year reached a record high of 860,000, and it is expected this will increase again. 

“The Passport Service is currently in its peak season for passport demand with the vast majority of applications being received between February and August each year,” he said.

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He said that – at the end of 2018 – the Passport Service employed the equivalent of 363.2 full time staff, an increase of 40 on 2017.

Already this year, a further 60 full-time staff had taken on roles according to Coveney. 

“The Passport Service has received approval to recruit over 230 Temporary Clerical Officers (TCOs) in 2019 to assist in processing passport applications and to deal with the queries from the general public,” Coveney said. 

Last year, 29% of all passport applications were online.

“It is envisaged that as part of this reform the online application process will be rolled out to first-time applicants by 2021,” Coveney said. 

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Sean Murray

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