Smart reporting to reduce cost and risk

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Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources was recognized at the 2017 Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) Public Sector Innovation Awards for its Maritime Arrivals Reporting System (MARS). Here, the Federal Government & Public Sector Leader for EY in Australia, Andrew Metcalfe, who was on the awards judging panel, speaks with Tom Watson, the department’s deputy secretary.

Andrew Metcalfe: MARS has revolutionized biosecurity border clearance for 18,000 international vessels that arrive into Australia each year. What system has it replaced and how does it work?

Tom Watson: Previously, vessel masters and shipping agents had to submit and receive a significant number of paper-based documents in a process that users reported as complex and onerous.

The MARS online portal allows vessel masters and shipping agents to manage all aspects of biosecurity clearance in one place, saving the department AUD$6.6 million each year.

It’s also been a game changer for risk management. Australia’s biosecurity legislation places pre-arrival reporting obligations on vessel operators. In the old system, these reports were submitted manually and were often incomplete, requiring resubmission.

On average, each vessel required around 20 transactions between shipping industry and departmental staff – a huge administrative burden. Now that all pre-arrival reports and service requests are completed through MARS, inspectors can focus on managing biosecurity risk, with all the information they need at their fingertips.

MARS is making the department’s goal of workforce integration and staff mobility easier by removing the need for officers to return to the office to process inspection results. This enables the department to improve the client experience through improved response times and reduced overheads.

AM: How else are you using analytics with the data that MARS collects?

TW: The intelligence built into MARS assesses the pre-arrival reports against a series of high-risk triggers and issues directions to the vessel.

Before MARS, biosecurity directions were provided through nine documents, including plain text emails, printed certificates and carbon-copy treatment orders. This information was disjointed, duplicative and hard to track.

MARS provides directions through a single source of the truth called the Biosecurity Status Document. This key document is updated throughout the voyage and displays the directions in a series of categories, with a traffic light status of the conditions that apply.

Given most vessel masters have English as a second language, this document gives them a clear indication on their status and helps them to follow the directions.

Learn more about the 2017 IPAA Public Sector Innovation Awards.