​Accenture and Capgemini to fight for Centrelink contract

The federal government has instigated a vendor duel in a bid to sign a consultancy firm as part of its welfare payments system overhaul.

The Australian government has shortlisted Capgemini and Accenture to provide systems integration services for the overhaul of Centrelink's ageing welfare payments system.

The pair of consultancy firms is to battle it out for the final rights to the contract that falls under the transformation of the Department of Human Services' 30-year-old payment system, currently responsible for processing over AU$100 billion in Centrelink payments annually.

In a "try, before you buy" scenario, Capgemini and Accenture will work with the agency's main software vendor -- expected to be SAP -- to deliver the next tranche involved in the project.

Although not yet awarded, SAP was highlighted by Human Services in August as its preferred tenderer when it went to market to establish a panel of systems integrators to support the welfare payment infrastructure transformation (WPIT) program.

Official discussions with SAP began after the department published a Request for Expressions of Interest (REOI) in September last year to gather suggestions from the IT industry on how to design and begin construction of the new welfare payment system to replace the Income Security Integrated System (ISIS).

The project, expected to cost the Australian government billions, is estimated to take seven years in total, with the REOI falling under the first tranche of the project, which also includes planning, scoping, and design work, and adding some initial "bolt-on" digital services for welfare recipients.

"This is one of the largest social welfare business transformations undertaken worldwide; success will depend on establishing strong industry partnerships," former Minister for Human Services Senator Marise Payne said previously.

At the completion of the vendor duel, Human Services has said the second-placed firm will still be invited to form part of the systems integrators panel, where they, along with some other unnamed firms, will provide integration, data migration, and other services to the department to support the overhaul.

"This project will change the way Australians do business with government -- significantly improving the user experience and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the welfare system," Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge said in a statement on Monday.

Amid the investigation into the botched August 9 Census, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) turned to Accenture last month to help it develop new data collection systems, with the components acquired under the new contract potentially shaping the next Census.

For a cost of AU$19.9 million, Accenture will enable the ABS to issue statistical products more affordably, efficiently, and with IT stability, according to Trevor Sutton, Deputy Australian Statistician of the Statistical Business Transformation Group.

"The Accenture engagement will enhance our digital data collection, reduce the manual handling, enable cost savings, reduce paper use, and improve our reporting and processes," Sutton said.

"We will be implementing new management tools that will give us a greater capacity for automation, reducing cost and risk through the use of market leading off-the-shelf software rather than bespoke internally developed systems."