Skills shortage not to blame for ATO delays

Skills shortage not to blame for ATO delays

Summary: Significant delays to the Australian Tax Office's five-year AU$700 million Change Program have not been caused by skills shortages, says ATO CIO, Bill Gibson.

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Significant delays to the Australian Tax Office's five-year AU$700 million Change Program have not been caused by skills shortages, according to ATO CIO, Bill Gibson.

While some components of the Change Program, such as the fringe benefits tax, GST and excise tax products are scheduled to go live by the end of March, the income tax product, which was supposed to be deployed at the same time, will be delayed by six months.

"The income tax product is the most complicated tax product and it hasn't got to the end yet so we will defer this to the fourth quarter, but nothing else is at risk and nothing else changed," Gibson told ZDNet.com.au.

"I think we're being sensible about it in that we're not going to deploy prematurely any element of such a critical system -- for ourselves plus the tax community -- without a high level of confidence that it will perform as required," he added.

Meanwhile, the superannuation products related to the "superannuation simplification scheme" that was announced in July last year and affects 1.3 million employers will be deployed by October.

The superannuation component has added AU$220 million to the original estimated cost of between AU$400 and AU$450 million slated for the program.

Other key components to be released in the coming year include the ATO's tax advice product, which will be released mid 2008.

Although skills shortages affecting other federal government agency initiatives, such as the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's Systems for People program, causing it to release a raft of tenders for IT staff worth AU$6 million over the past year, Gibson said the program has not been hampered by those skills shortages.

"We have got a distributed development capability. We have large teams in Brisbane, Wollongong, Adelaide and Canberra that are involved in the design, build and test of this Change Program. So, we know there is a lot of pressure in Canberra but we have been able to mitigate against this," he said.

Despite this, Gibson said skills shortages have not made the task easy.

"If I suggest this has been straightforward, anyone who's involved in this will disagree. It's still been complicated and difficult and requires moving people and workloads around. We have had to reorder, within development cycles, some activities," he said.

"We're not immune to it, but we have a depth which I think some other corporations or departments don't have."

Gibson said a key focus for the Change Program has been to establish the core integrated processing system prior to deploying the related products, designed to make compliance easier and cheaper.

"Our deployment philosophy is to deploy the foundation and build up the tax products over time and that at the end of that period -- in July next year -- we will have all of the tax products operating on an integrated system," he said.

Topics: CXO, Government, Government AU

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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