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ATO to change how it buys tech, CIO says

ATO to change how it buys tech, CIO says

Small, more targeted contracts on the agenda, the agency’s tech chief says

The Australian Taxation Office’s chief information officer says the agency plans to split future IT contracts into “smaller, more specifically targeted bundles.”

“This allows us to reach a wider market of specialist providers for each service and ensure we’re engaging the right expertise,” said ATO CIO Ramez Katf.

“We expect to gradually approach the market for each bundle over the next three years, with exact timelines to be determined by a number of factors, including business priorities and the expiry of existing contracts,” Katf said.

“We are increasingly looking to deliver an integrated and flexible future service capability driven by natural systems and digital events, for example, Single Touch Payroll,” the CIO said.

In late 2017, the federal government unveiled a range of changes to ICT procurement processes.

A Digital Transformation Agency investigation into ICT procurement found that there was “deep dissatisfaction of almost all parties involved in current government procurement practices and processes”

“Government agencies told the taskforce that they find procurement processes outdated, cumbersome and unable to meet their needs,” the report of the procurement taskforce said. “They are concerned that they are being left behind in adopting new and innovative technologies to deliver services.

“Businesses find selling ICT goods and services to government to be costly and confusing, and occasionally cannot justify the required investment of money and time for an uncertain payoff.”

Among the changes implemented by the government in response to the report was capping IT contracts at a maximum value of $100 million or three years’ duration to allow more small- and medium-sized businesses to bid for work (that cap isn’t absolute — earlier this year Canberra signed a whole-of-government purchasing agreement with IBM worth an estimated $1 billion over its five-year lifespan).

Katf said that the ATO had a “clear path of work”, initially focusing on migrating the tax agent and intermediary portals to the agency’s online services platform.

“As well as delivering that vital piece of work, we will be developing our new e-commerce platform, supporting the next stage of SuperStream and Single Touch Payroll and supporting the modernisation of the Australian Business Registry,” the CIO said in a statement.

“We’ve just wrapped up another extremely successful Tax Time, with high levels of online usage, strong service availability and faster processing times than ever before. Meanwhile our eCommerce platform is now handling six times as many transactions as 12 months ago.

“This demonstrates that our work to improve system performance and reliability is on the right track as we deliver on our vision for 2024.

“Our IT systems are a critical element in our mission to build trust and confidence in the tax and super systems.”

Last year the resilience of key ATO systems came under scrutiny following major outages in December 2016 and February 2017. The root cause of the outages was found to be an ATO SAN operated by HP Enterprise.

An investigation found that during design of the SAN “there was a relative focus on performance”, including not catering for greater than single drive failure or single cage failure, and some built-in resilience and monitoring features were not enabled.

Separately the agency also suffered outages of some key online services in June 2017 and July 2017.

In December 2017, the ATO renewed its centralised computing contact with DXC Technology (which took over responsibility for the previous contract after the merger of CSC and HP Enterprise’s services business). 

Following the December 2016 and February 2017 outages, the ATO imposed penalties on DXC, Katf told a parliamentary inquiry hearing earlier this year.

“Australians expect online services to be available 24/7, as well as being easy-to use and intuitive,” Katf said in the statement released today by the ATO.

“We are committed to providing a contemporary, reliable and secure digital experience for all our users – from those who interact with us multiple times a day, to those who only interact with us once a year.”

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Tags governmentICT procurementAustralian Taxation Office (ATO)

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