The Australian Customs Service : towards organisational 'turnaround'

  • Richard Quentin Agnew

    Student thesis: Professional Doctorate


    For the past decade the Australian Customs Service (ACS) has been regarded as an organisation in decline. Customs’ history has been sporadically influenced by numerous reports that identify many instances of ‘maladministration’. More recently, instances, such as the ‘Midford Paramount Affair’, have brought media and public notoriety to Customs followed by the establishment of the Review of the A CS in May 1993 (The Conroy Report). This, the latest and most comprehensive report undertaken on the ACS, documented administrative malfunctions of a major kind. Each report, using its own rationale has recommended more advanced levels of information technology (IT) application. To study these protracted administrative issues, the author has used, as the basis of analysis, a dynamic contingent decision-paths schema as well as furthering the theoretical constructs of organisational ‘reliability’ theory. The dynamic contingent decision-paths schema is designed to provide a conceptual :framework regarding public (and private) sector situations of agency decline, evaluation, strategic response and finally ‘turnaround’ policy and implementation. The ACS is now implementing a comprehensive turnaround strategy, which includes new and novel information technologies. Organisational ‘reliability’ theory relates to organisations that are required to be highly reliable in their daily work-related activities otherwise crises of some major magnitude may occur. These organisations need to practice near perfect organisational and decision-making performance, and tend to be highly technical, relying increasingly in turn on information technology in managing their respective systems or operations. Customs was an early innovator in using Electronic Data Interchange and is now pursuing e-commerce, which in part is being outsourced, to EDS, a multinational company. The study initially reviews the recent history of the ACS - ‘mapping’ the nature of the organisation’s decline, raising relevant factors which the author argues may be seen as successive ‘crisis points’. and lastly, addresses the strategic ‘turnaround’ policies of the organisation. The author believes the nadir for Customs has been reached and there are now positive signs that the ACS has commenced its organisational ‘turnaround’. Organisational design matters including structural and cultural issues have been addressed which has allowed Customs to forge new relationships with its clients, as well as fostering ‘new’ management philosophies. These new philosophies and relationships, together with participation with an industry lead advisory team and a new internal management team, have provided the catalyst for change and recovery. Political and industry pressure and their formal involvement in a recovery strategy provide a high level of confidence for Customs’ future and the strategic and operational changes being implemented.
    Date of Award1999
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorAlan JARMAN (Supervisor) & Jenny STEWART (Supervisor)

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