Home Affairs is moving ahead with plans to revive its ditched outsourced visa processing system but the public sector union is warning the move will be expensive and ineffective.
A tender opened for the controversial project in October last year and the department is expected to issue a contract to a private supplier this month that will help them deliver a one-stop shop for visa processing by the end of the year.
The system, which is referred to as a permissions capability, is expected to overhaul and streamline the country's cumbersome visa processing system, focusing on technology that could be used in other government agencies in the future.
Earlier plans ditched last year would have resulted in the winning supplier taking a cut of each visa application processed in a deal expected to generate hundreds of millions in revenue.
A Home Affairs spokesperson said while revived plans for system would result in it being built by a private provider, it would be operated and controlled by government employees.
"The permissions capability will be publicly funded and operated," a department spokesperson said.
"The Commonwealth will at all times retain control of, and responsibility and accountability for, process design and implementation the whole of government program, as well as all decision-making."
But the Community and Public Sector Union has criticised the government's plans to revive the outsourced system.
The union's deputy national president Brooke Muscat said the expensive project could have been delivered in-house instead and at less cost.
"While we're glad that the new system will be owned and run by the public, there's no good reason to outsource the build," Ms Muscat said.
"Staff in the department know that they have the skills and experience to deliver this project, but weren't even given the chance to make their case for the work to be done by workers in the public service.
"Instead, the government insists on using consultants, contractors and external vendors even though evidence continues to mount that it's less effective and more expensive. It's prejudice over evidence."
In an industry information paper, the department outlined it would work to first have a digital replacement for the incoming passenger card international arrivals fill out when entering the country by September's end.
It would then work to integrate a simple online visa system for non-citizen travellers due by the end of the year.
The department expects the system could be expanded to other areas of government allowing for a one-stop shop to get permits, licences and registrations.
It comes nearly a year after Home Affairs announced it would ditch its initial plan, which was heavily criticised for its push towards privatisation.
Questions of political conflicts of interest were also raised due to one of the main tenderers, the Australian Visa Processing consortium, being ran by former NSW Liberal deputy state director Scott Briggs.
The department said it had spent $92 million on the project before it was dumped as the pandemic worsened domestically and globally.
The plan was re-introduced months later, instead focusing on the expanded approach. Then-Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said the proposed system would help make travelling to the country easier in the post-COVID-19 world.
"This new capability will strip away the need to scan paper cards. It will facilitate data sharing between state and territory health departments and enable swift verification of information provided by passengers," Mr Tudge said in October.
"In the future, collection and verification of information will assist in managing risk at the international border when international travel returns."
Labor spokesperson for multicultural affairs Andrew Giles said the return of the government's visa overhaul plans were a waste of resources and could negatively affect migration.
"The Morrison government's plan to outsource Australia's visa processing system is back from the dead," Mr Giles said.
"The last time Peter Dutton tried to do this he blew $100 million trying to sell off the visa system to one of Scott Morrison's best mates - Scott Briggs.
"The Migration Council of Australia has expressed concern that Australia's system of migration could be negatively affected by the outsourcing of the visa system."
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