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Wilson Address to Opening of Call Centers

Wilson Address to Opening of new Collections Call Centre

Tena koutou

It is a privilege for me as the new Minister for Courts to be invited to open the new Collections Call Centre here in Wellington. It is also good to meet you all - the people who are the public voice of Collections. The work you do plays a key part in improving the credibility of fines as a sanction, which is one of the Department's six strategic goals. Credibility will only be achieved if fines are collected and civil debts are enforced.

The Collections Call Centre has an excellent track record of collecting fines. Since its establishment in Wellington in 1997 it has proved itself as a professional and cost effective fines collection unit.

The Call Centre's success with fines collection is based on its ability to proactively contact fines defaulters. If it can locate and contact a fines defaulter, then the fine can generally be paid.

The steadily increasing number of infringement fines led to various options being explored last year to deal with the increase. Expanding the Call Centre capacity in the Collections Unit was considered to be the most cost effective and efficient option, compared to other options of increasing staff at district collections units, or outsourcing.

Today we are celebrating the achievement of the first part of a staged approach to the expansion of Collection's Call Centre capacity. This upgraded and relocated Wellington Call Centre will be complemented in the future by a new Call Centre in an upper North Island location. This second Call Centre will be operational by 1 January 2004, and I understand work is underway to locate a suitable site. I eagerly await further developments.

So how will this new Wellington Call Centre impact on the collection of fines?

The Call Centre's 116 staff - up from 53 staff - will increase the focus on the collection of fines. The increased number of staff will enable the Call Centre to make more proactive contact with fines defaulters to remind them they have fines and can avoid enforcement fees and enforcement action by paying these on time.

The Call Centre will also gradually take over responsibility for answering all inbound calls to Collections. This will reduce duplication of effort between the Call Centre and field units. This will free up the field units to concentrate on early actioning of court-imposed fines, deal with face-to-face counter enquiries, community education, and their area of expertise - hands on enforcement of both fines and civil judgments. As a result the field units will be more visible in the community - chasing up fines defaulters and clamping cars!

Then there are the dollar benefits the enhanced Call Centre will bring; the projected increase in fines collected over 10 years from the Collections Call Centre expanded capacity is expected to be $211 million.

The news is also good for victims; the Call Centre will make strides towards meeting the objectives of early and increased collection and disbursement of money owed to victims. Relationship management is the key to achieving this - the Call Centre will take a proactive role in contacting victims and updating them on the status of their reparation. The COLLECT computer system will help with this.

I would now like to turn to the new modern premises we have here. "Ahead of time and under budget" are words you do not hear in relation to many projects. I am told a fast track construction approach was used with this Call Centre, and that progress has been rapid since access to the site was gained in July this year. I know thanks are due to the co-ordinated efforts of a number of people in a range of areas.
In this age where technology dates so quickly it is important to update to avoid becoming obsolete. This facility has been called "a more sophisticated call centre environment". Its high-tech features include new servers, PABX and predictive dialling upgrades, and the soon-to-be-installed rostering tool for management of workflow. The greater technology-based enforcement approach that is now possible here will put the Department in a better position to contribute towards the development of e-government.

Technology, however, is only part of the equation. The strength of this organisation is its people, and this was recognised earlier in the year when the Collections Call Centre was placed second out of 13 public service groups in the prestigious CRM Customer Service Audit. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Call Centre staff on that achievement. I know you have been closely involved in the development of this new Call Centre, and I hope it suits your needs, and you enjoy working here.

Fines are an important part of the fabric of the justice system. The expanded Call Centre - all 1,500 square metres of it - supports Collections' aim to improve the credibility of fines as a justice sanction. It also meets a key government goal of restoring trust in Government and providing strong social services. Fundamental to achieving these government and departmental objectives is the collection of fines and enforcement of civil debts.

Expanding the Call Centre also aligns well with the new Sentencing Act 2002, which places greater emphasis on the use of fines and reparation as penalties. It is, therefore, essential that fines remain a credible sentence. The Collections Call Centre will play an important part in ensuring their credibility.

I spoke earlier about how the Call Centre will improve services to victims. There is clearly a good fit between the expansion of the Call Centre and the aims of the Government's victims' rights legislation, which emphasises making the criminal justice system more responsive to victims.

Collections has an important part to play in educating the public on the need for compliance with monetary orders. The enhanced Call Centre will strengthen the voice of Collections as it speaks to the public.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you on this occasion. I now declare the new Collections Call Centre in Wellington officially open.

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