Report blames Customs for cargo pile-up

Report blames Customs for cargo pile-up

Summary: 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.

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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.

Topics: Government AU, Enterprise Software

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4 comments
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  • What about the success story?

    What about the success story that ICS represents for Australian ICT? The truth is there is one here, but few are interested in shining a light on this part of the stroy.

    ICS might have had it's share of problems most of which are arguably "people" not "technology" related. Indeed, almost every ICS story on this report ignores one crutial paragraph of the report that states ICS as being better than the systems it replaced and one of the best Custom's systems in the developed world. It is a platform upon which Customs can now evolve freed from the traditional constrints that a legacy application portfolio provides. Well done to Customs I say.

    Allow me to quote t it here as follows so readers have a balance view):

    "The ICS is now a stable system, is showing good functionality and is performing reliably. The ICS offers substantial benefits over the legacy systems it replaces. It is integrated, well structured, it is based on high integrity data architecture and is highly configurable. In these respects, the ICS is among the better examples of Customs systems available among the developed nations. We believe that the integrated nature
    of the system and its modern architecture represents a sound base on which Customs can base further improvements."
    anonymous
  • What happened to the basics

    Reading this story, just totally horrified me as a long time tester/implementer of software systems. Certificate IV TAFE students are taught about quality systems and implementation and the cost of poorly implemented products. Yes despite the system may be stable now, look at the overall cost not only to the company, but to the stress to the users and the customers. So now this saga becomes a story that is relayed to students about what not to do, not a great way to be remembered.
    anonymous
  • Fundamental misunderstanding of methodologies

    The ICS project represents a fundamental misunderstanding of software development methodologies. the ICS is developed using Gen (structural method for functional languages like cobol, etc) yet targeting Java (Object oriented method). The two don't mix, it's like trying to mix oil and water. What a shame.
    anonymous
  • just plain stupid

    Software development practise in Australia is often characterised by bad decision making, which is due to lack of understanding of technology. Many people who become managers or project managers often have no idea about the technology being used. These people shouldn't be in such position, yet the politics at work place always win thus resulting in waste of tax payers' money.

    The ICS project represents a fundamental misunderstanding of software development methodologies. the ICS is developed using Gen (structural method for functional languages like cobol, etc) yet targeting Java (Object oriented method). The two don't mix, it's like trying to mix oil and water.

    It's no surprise that the project failed.

    Hope you learn the basic theory. Because it's far more important to understand the basic theory than the fancy words and terminologies in IT. So that one day when you become a manager, you will not be fooled by sales pitch or by incentive given by software vendors.
    anonymous