Accenture has won a major deal with the government to build the platform that will digitise incoming passenger cards and collect information on the vaccine status of international travellers.
Home Affairs minister Karen Andrews revealed the contract with the consulting giant on Monday following a 10 month search for a “permissions capability” that could eventually extend across government.
The Australian Financial Review had previously reported the existence of the $60 million deal, though at the time the Department of Home Affairs declined to comment on what it described as “speculation”.
Home Affairs approached the market for the permission-based services platform in October 2020 with the intention of handling both digital passenger declarations (DPD) and simple visa processing.
It followed the government’s failed billion-dollar plan to outsource Australia’s visa processing platform, which cost almost $100 million before it was unceremoniously dumped.
But it appears the government has delayed its plans to use the permission capability for simple visa processing by the end of 2021, with Accenture to focus its initial efforts on the DPD.
The DPD will replace paper-based incoming passenger cards at Australia's borders, as well as the Covid-19 Australian travel declaration web form that has been in place since last year.
Home Affairs previously attempted to replace the incoming passenger card in 2017 as part of its 'seamless traveller' initiative.
The DPD will capture information for use by border officials, which now includes vaccination status, with travellers able to complete a DPD on their mobile device up to 72 hours before boarding.
Andrews said the DPD would “support the safe re-opening of Australia’s international borders by providing digitally-verified Covid-19 vaccination details”, but did not refer to it as a vaccine passport.
“This will help us to welcome home increasingly numbers of Australians, and welcome the tourists, travellers, internationally students, skilled workers and overseas friends and family,” she said.
The DPD is also expected to provide a mechanism to share “digitally-verified travel, health and vaccine status information of international travellers with state and territory public health authorities”.
Employment minister Stuart Robert, who oversees data and digital policy, confirmed the government would consider extending the platform to other services following the DPD.
He said this could include visas, import permits, personnel identity cards, licences, registrations and other documents, making previously cumbersome processes easier, safer and more transparent”.
Accenture is expected to begin testing the DPD shortly and deliver the initial operating capability before the end of the year.
Restrictions preventing Australians from travelling overseas are expected to be dropped as soon as November.