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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22860


Mr Tanner asked the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, upon notice, on 17 September 2003:

(1) Is the Minister aware of the article entitled `Has Telstra been fudging the service standard figures' on Crikey.com's Sole Subscriber Sealed Section Bulletin dated 15 September at 4.34 p.m.

(2) Has the Minister investigated allegations in this article that Telstra has been providing the Australian Communications Authority with incorrect service performance statistics that have misrepresented Telstra's service performance in an overly positive light; if so, can the Minister provide a full account of the investigation.

(3) Can the Minister state categorically that all Telstra's service performance statistics over the past three year's are accurate.


Mr Williams (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —The answer to the honourable member's question, based on information provided by Telstra and the Australian Communications Authority (ACA), is as follows:

(1) Yes.

(2) Yes, the allegations have been investigated.

Telstra has advised that it is unaware of any basis for these allegations and is disappointed that these allegations can be made in the absence of any supporting evidence, particularly as they in effect question the values of some of its staff. Telstra has since responded to crikey.com calling for evidence to support these allegations which Telstra characterises as union driven and without basis.

Telstra has indicated that it believes that there are no systemic problems in the accuracy of its service reporting and that any individual training or compliance issues would be identified and addressed by the regular audits on field service conducted by Team Leaders and Managers.

Telstra has advised that its field staff have never had the ability to input a job (service restoration or installation) into Director - Telstra's Work Management Field Despatch System. Telstra has indicated that new fault repair jobs received are input initially into Telstra's Service Plus order receipt system for any necessary line qualification or testing prior to them being input into Director. It is not possible for field staff to somehow input a customer's job into Service Plus and direct that job back to them via Director for their action. Fault volume analysis shows that variations in fault levels prior to, during and after the implementation of FuturEdge (Connect) - Telstra's latest Work Management System - are well within seasonal variations that Telstra plans for.

Further, Telstra has advised that there is simply no incentive for field staff to create `fake' jobs. Telstra field staff do not have a quota of Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) jobs that they are expected to complete or get measured on. Telstra has indicated that all CSG jobs are linked to a customer telephone number, and that systemic abuse or inaccurate reporting on CSG volumes would become evident in audits Telstra conducts from time to time and the compliance and governance arrangements Telstra has implemented regarding CSG reporting. For example, if Telstra staff created a fake CSG connection order, an actual Telstra customer would receive a connection charge. In the case of service faults, the test desk process used to confirm the nature of the fault would highlight any false reporting. Systemic abuse would also be detected through other Telstra systems and process including customer complaints and compliance training audits.

(3) All monitoring and performance processes are subject to human error, and it is impossible to categorically state that such a complex procedure is fault free.

Telstra has indicated that it performs approximately 2.8 million CSG jobs each year. At various points in the CSG process human intervention is required. As with any system involving human input errors may occur, however the level of human error is minute and any systemic abuse, as alleged in the crikey.com article, would become evident to Telstra customers, Telstra's internal reporting, and the ACA.

Telstra has advised that its performance and reporting is subject to an extremely high level of scrutiny from the ACA, ACCC, TIO, Senate Committees and numerous inquiries and is supported through internal audits, checks and compliance reporting systems.

Telstra has indicated that its reporting systems continue to evolve in response to changing regulations, technologies and market conditions. For example, in 2003 Telstra had to modify existing reporting systems to accommodate the new measures of Priority Assistance reporting, NRF and CSG Extreme failure. It is illogical to claim that Telstra's older Director system is `inaccurate' when it had not been designed to report on these new measures.

In its role as the industry regulator, in addition to regular monitoring of data received from telecommunications providers, the ACA has undertaken a program of audits to verify industry performance data, test compliance with statutory obligations and assess the operational and record-keeping practices of carriers in their implementation of CSG performance reporting. Specific performance audits include:

Telstra data relating to its Priority Assistance for Individuals Policy (report completed);

use of CSG exemption notice provisions by Telstra and Optus (report completed);

interim and alternative services, (currently being scoped); and

CSG data (currently being scoped).