Friday, May 02, 2008

The Daily Wanker 2008 review of international government services

The Daily Wanker presents again, by popular acclaim, a transantional comparison of government services. For this year's comparison we took upon ourselves the task of obtaining a British Passport. In order to complicate the process, we assumed that our prior passport had expired, but had been lost (it may actually be in a box in Australia, but who knows). Being Wankers, we assumed the number of the lost passport and its expiry date were forgotten. To complicate the process, we applied for the passport in Japan; and of course, being Wankers we were born in New Zealand and have a current Australian passport, but are eligible for a UK passport by descent. Travel had to occur within 3 weeks, so we needed to test the efficiency and speed of the various departments contacted. Below is our review of the various departments involved. Except where otherwise stated, staff were of the same nationality as the nation in which the office was located. Each service is rated out of 5 for politeness, and 5 for efficiency/correctness. Because English deparatments were assessed, the rating could range from negative infinity (obviously, poor) to 5 (best).

UK Visa Information Service, Osaka: Being a Wanker, I initially rang this service to find out what documents I needed, but they don't actually handle passport applications. Nonetheless, they charged me $8 per phone call to ask a question, and gave me wrong information about a topic they aren't meant to handle. They never once told me to contact the embassy.
  • Politeness: 0 (being nice to me doesn't make up for charging me to answer questions!)
  • Correctness: -10000
The British Consulate, Tokyo: The obvious first contact point for my passport, sadly I didn't use them immediately. Their telephone service was excellent but much of what they told me was, unfortunately, incorrect. Also, they were extremely officious, requiring that the letter of the law be followed. In combination, this led them to tell me that I was ineligible to receive a UK passport because my prior passport was lost, and in order to get one I had to report my prior passport lost, even though I don't know when or where I lost it, or anything about it, and I don't live in the country where it was lost.
  • Politeness: 4 (they did that annoying thing where they kept interrupting me)
  • Correctness: - 100000000

The British Consulate, Adelaide: In amongst their mistakes, the consulate general in Osaka told me that the Adelaide consulate could witness my Mother's birth certificate. This, it turned out, was wrong, and when I questioned its wrongness in this phone call the staff at the other end offered very bluntly to "read the law" to me, and started ranting about overseas missions.

  • Politeness: 0
  • Correctness: 5

The Department of Immigration Passport Infoline, UK: The woman who answered this phone was possibly the rudest, most abrasive and unpleasant creature I have ever had the misfortune to deal with. From her first question "The nature of your inquiry!" (notice the lack of question mark) to her final question "Can't you just fly back to Australia and get the old passport?", her manner was beyond the pale. I recommend a re-education camp for this girl. Also everything she "told" me was wrong.

  • Politeness: negative infinity (no, I cannot "just" fly back to Australia to get a lost passport)
  • Correctness: negative infinity (subsequent checks will reveal my lost passport is irrelevant)

Matsue Police Station: surprisingly, there is no way that the Matsue police can accept a lost passport report for a passport lost overseas. Who knew? But they were very apologetic, and even offered to give me their number so the embassy could ring them to confirm this obvious fact.

  • Politeness: 5
  • Correctness: 5

Adelaide Central police station: It turns out upon speaking to the Adelaide Central Police Station that they will take a report for a passport lost 10years ago, provided that I say I looked for it last week (nudge nudge) and can give the correct passport number. Also they can do it over the phone. But they cannot give me a police report, even though the passport office think this is mandatory, because police reports are only available under Freedom of Information. They give a report number, which the passport office subsequently told me (contrary to the information on the application form) that this is insufficient.

  • Politeness: 3 (the officer was really nice to me, but I had to do some bowing and scraping first)
  • Correctness: 5 (and thank god for that, too!)

So how did all this resolve itself in the end? The British Consulate General in Australia has different information on its webpage to the consulate general in Japan (handy that), stating clearly that there is no need to worry about lost passports if they have expired. After pointing this out to the Embassy, they "checked" with the passport processing officer, and revised my application. The passport finally arrived in time.

I think we can see a pattern here, in terms of whose service is more accurate, whose is more polite, and whose is just shit. May I add for posperity that I had for the first time in my life the experience of actually changing a public service worker's interpretation of the law, and that the public service worker in question was Japanese...? An interesting achievement. If only the British Immigration Department could take a leaf from that book. In the meantime, I shall rate said department with a negative infinity for politeness (for their staff's behaviour and their stupid rules, and for thinking a visa to the UK is worth 55000 yen) and a negative infinity for correctness (nothing they told me was even near correct).

The Daily Wanker has spoken! Surely now heads will roll...


Blogger Miss Ember said...

Golly, nearly had apoplexy reading this 'un. The memories of all that bureaucratic chaos came rushing back!

9:37 PM  
Blogger Sir S said...

Ha! Just you wait! Your chance will come! You better make sure that bob of yours fits inside the prescribed 29mm - 34mm face-size, or you're in big trouble!

11:00 PM  

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