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Number of complaints against Passport Service increases almost fivefold in two years

Coveney has previously said the Passport Office experienced some “real problems” last year.

Image: Mark Stedman/Rollingnews.ie

THE NUMBER OF complaints made against the Passport Service has increased almost fivefold since 2016.

Releasing the figures to the Dáil following a parliamentary question, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said that 118 complaints had been made in 2018.

This was compared to just 25 in 2016, as the Passport Office deals with a sharp increase in applications since the Brexit vote in the UK. The service dealt with 733,000 passport applications in 2016, compared to 862,000 last year.

Coveney said that the reasons for complaints falls within three broad categories, including communication, processing times and customer service.

Measures were being taken to try to improve customer service and the management of demand on the service, Coveney said, such as “the recruitment of additional staff, targeted overtime, reorganisation of production process and administration arrangements, and the continuous implementation of service improvements through the passport reform programme”. 

Each year, the department hires 220 temporary clerical officers to assist in processing passport applications and dealing with the public. 

Last summer, the secretary general at the Department of Foreign Affairs apologised to people who’d experienced delays in their passport application. 

Niall Burgess told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) it was “a matter of immense frustration” for staff at the Passport Office that it’s taking longer than planned to process some applications.

Burgess said the service “for the most part” is working well but acknowledged that many people are concerned they won’t receive their passports in time for travel plans.

Burgess said staff are showing “immense grace under pressure” but added: “The phone service is not what it should be at present and I apologise for that.”

For those trying to get their passport through on time, many turned to their local representative for assistance. TheJournal.ie revealed that, as of last summer, TDs and Senators had made almost 5,000 representations to the Passport Office on behalf of their constituents seeking passports in the last two years.

Coveney has said that TDs offices shouldn’t be set up as passport delivery offices, stating that a “small number” of politicians encourage it. 

He said the Passport Office experienced some “real problems” last year, due to the increase in the number of passport applications in light of Brexit, as well as the office having to close for a period due to extreme weather, which caused a backlog.

“Because of that there were a lot of emergency cases that actually came through the political system rather than through the standard process. We tried to facilitate that as best we can, because there is always exceptional circumstances and tragic cases… I think we muddled through okay last year,” he said. 

In his response to the parliamentary question in the Dáil, the Tánaiste said he was hopeful additional measures put in place this year would improve the running of the passport office.

He said: “I am satisfied that these additional resources and the improvements in technology will bring about a greater level of customer satisfaction with faster turnaround times and greater access to information.”

With reporting from Christina Finn

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