As a leading border security agency, the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority, (‘ICA’), Singapore is built on the twin strategic foci of “Identification” and “Border Security”, to strive in providing first-world security with first-world service. Under “Identification”, our service efforts are guided by the principle concept of Multiple Channels, Minimum Visits and Many Benefits, which it is called 3M. The introduction of Alternate Site Collection (‘ASC') for Singapore passports in 2010 encapsulates the essence of 3M, by providing an alternative passport collection channel, reducing the number of visits to ICA Building (ICAB), and offering convenience to Singapore citizens (SCs). ASC will cover the collection of Singapore Identity Cards (ICs) and Long Term Pass (LTPs) in subsequent phases.
Generally, there is a tendency for SCs to come personally to ICAB for collection of their passports on the same days, i.e. Fridays, Saturdays, eve of public holidays, before and during school holidays. This is a phenomenon which is difficult to change, despite informing SCs to avoid coming during peak days/periods through our website and notification letters. This resistance to change can be attributed to SCs’ fast-paced lifestyles and preference to collect their passports closer to the weekend. Where some countries may impose daily quotas for passport collection, Singapore will not adopt such a bureaucratic approach as our public service is built on a customer-centric model.
The mentioned situation was compounded by the surge in passport applications and collections throughout 2010 due to convergence of the 10-year and 5-year passport renewal cycles. In 2010, the total workload increased to 144% compared to that of 2005. In March 2010 alone, ICA issued over 68,000 passports, which was the highest volume of passports ever issued in a month, in the history of ICA. This translates into an average of over 2,500 passports issued per day that month.
This exponential increase in workload could have negative repercussions if not properly managed. Apart from crowd management issues, staff morale would deteriorate and led to slippages in service standards. Officers at the passport issuance unit were constantly pressurised by the ever-increasing demands for better and faster services. The spike in workload not only stretched our manpower resources, it also put a strain on the physical constraints of ICAB.
As ICA had dismissed the construction of additional physical premises for passport collection due to the prohibitive cost and construction time, we had adopted the 3M concept by outsourcing the collection of ICA secured documents to trusted partners. While ICA had introduced multiple channels for submission of passport applications via mail, drop-in deposit boxes at ICAB, the Internet or over the counters, applicants still had to collect their passports at ICAB. This led ICA to consider Alternate Site Collection (ASC) as a mid- to long-term solution. The ASC initiative has offered customers additional collection venues for Singapore passports, ICs and LTPs outside ICAB and allowed ICA to better manage the increasing crowd size in view of the existing physical infrastructure in the premises.