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News : Access Canberra Resists Calls to Publish Wait Times


Canberra, Australia, Sept, 2017 -- Access Canberra has resisted calls to publish its wait times in its annual statistics, saying the numbers would not "effectively" measure the job its staff were doing.

After annual report hearings in February, the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Tourism recommended Access Canberra publish yearly the number of clients it dealt with, the time taken to respond to queries and the number of queries finalised.

The average wait time across the Access Canberra contact centre in January was 129 seconds and 71 seconds in February, the committee heard.

Labor backbencher Suzanne Orr said she hung up after being told she was "something like 13th or 15th in line".

When she called back five minutes later, she was told she was still 13th or 15th in line.

'Maybe being told you are 13th or 15th in line might be giving the wrong perception," Ms Orr said in February.

The committee called on Access Canberra to proactively publish the data to build "public confidence in the organisation".

But in its response to the committee, tabled last week in the Legislative Assembly, the ACT government rejected that recommendation.

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"Access Canberra is looking at moving toward a customer outcome-based metric as wait time measures do not effectively report the outcomes of the impact Access Canberra is having in the community and regulated entities," the government wrote.

Instead, the success of Access Canberra will be measured on the percentage of customers satisfied with it; the percentage of services available and completed online; the average number of days to issue business authorisation or personal registration; and the average level of helpfulness.

It will also be benchmarked on the compliance rate during targeted campaign inspections; and the percentage of compliance activities undertaken.

The ACT government also failed to agree to a recommendation from the committee that Access Canberra should issue stop-work notices if a development application is not being complied with.

Currently planning officials allow people to lodge a new development approval or amendment if what they've built is not what was originally approved.

During the hearings, the Liberals and the Greens accused the ACT planning directorate of allowing builders to contravene building approvals without repercussions.

"The perception out there is that if you build it then ACTPLA will eventually approve it," Greens parliamentarian Caroline Le Couteur said at the time.

The committee said if the first response to a development application breach was to "retrospectively make it compliant" it lowered the bar for compliance, "effectively creating a 'better to seek forgiveness than permission' mindset".

"In the committee's opinion, seeking amended approvals to address non-compliance should be the first option only when the non-compliance is of a minor technical nature, difficult to rectify and does not gave any impact on neighbours. In other situations rectification to bring the work into compliance should be the first option explored," the report said.

While the government "noted" the recommendation, it said "development applications provide consent to take action rather than being a restrictive covenant".

"Determining compliance is often not clear cut and needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis. Also, there are often multiple works occurring at the same time on a site, halting works in the manner suggested may prove problematic and lead to problems where works are in progress and must be finished to ensure safety is maintained," the government wrote.


Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent

Today's Tip of the Day - Measuring Performance

Read today's tip or listen to it on podcast.

Published: Thursday, September 28, 2017

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