Inadequate testing and training were two factors contributing to the Australian Customs Service's botched Integrated Cargo System (ICS) implementation late last year, an independent review has found.
Auditor Booz Allen Hamilton today released its review of the project's implementation, which created a pile-up of cargo at ports in October 2005 after customs brokers and freight forwarders struck difficulty using ICS.
The review labelled Customs' end-to-end testing of ICS inadequate. "Testing with live data would have highlighted many issues that manifested when the system went live," the report said.
Compounding this was problems with the third-party software.
"Many users experienced problems that were not ICS-related but rather were problems in the software they use to communicate with Customs," said the report.
"These software providers in turn had difficulty in developing, testing and rolling out software in time to meet short deadlines imposed by frequent Custom fixes," the report said.
While major software vendors had told Customs they were ready for the implementation, without any formal quality control, Customs had no means of validating the claims, according to the report.
The fourth root cause identified was the lack of a staged implementation of ICS.
"The 'big bang' implementation provided no realistic fall-back when problems existed and no way of ensuring that the total end-to-end importation supply chain process worked correctly before widespread implementation," according to the report.
The auditors recommended the establishment of a sound governance base for the ICS, the continuation of the ICS remediation program, and other programs in improving cargo management.
In a statement responding to the report, Customs chief executive officer Michael Carmody said Customs would set up a new management structure to oversee future ICS development.
This would include the creation of a new deputy chief executive officer position responsible for delivering the recommendations of the report.
"Quite clearly a significant proportion of industry experienced problems following the introduction of the imports component of ICS. Customs acknowledges there are things that it could have done to make the implementation smoother."
"The release of today's report is an example of our renewed commitment to listen to, and partner with, industry in developing solutions," Carmody said.
Customs discussed the review with industry representatives in Sydney today. Joint working groups have been setup to explore improvements in trade facilitation.
"Initial working groups will focus on the benefits and feasibility of adopting the US 24-hour load rule for cargo reporting and the development of an Authorised Economic Operator program consistent with international supply chain security initiatives," Carmody said.