The Australian government has selected Accenture to provide systems integration services for the next phase of the Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation (WPIT) program that the Department of Human Services (DHS) is undertaking to transform Australia's 30-year-old payment system, which processes over AU$100 billion in Centrelink payments annually.
The contract, subject to commercial negotiations, will see Accenture work with DHS and others to produce a new online user interface for the system and a new payment utility that hopes to deliver payments to recipients faster, as well as design the end-state technology solution for future phases of the WPIT program, DHS said.
The WPIT program has been labelled the biggest digital transformation the government has embarked on to date by Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge, with the project estimated to take seven years to complete.
"Over the next five years, we're going to be progressively building a new system for each one of the major payments to make it simpler, faster, and cheaper to administer," Tudge said previously. "We're going from a world today where the system is stifled with unnecessary inefficiency and complexity to a world where there will be progressive transformational change."
In October, DHS instigated a vendor duel, shortlisting Capgemini and Accenture to provide systems integration services for the overhaul, with the pair of consultancy firms to battle it out for the final rights to the contract.
In a "try before you buy" scenario, it was said that Capgemini and Accenture would work with DHS' main software vendor -- expected to be SAP -- to deliver the next tranche involved in the WPIT project.
At the same time, DHS announced appointments to its system integrator panel in October, with the department signing Capgemini, Accenture, IBM, and HPE.
SAP was awarded a AU$3.4 million contract from DHS in February that will see the enterprise software giant work with the department on the provision of preparatory planning and design work until May 19, 2017.
SAP was announced as the department's software vendor of choice for overhauling the payments system when it went to tender in August.
At the time, DHS said it was yet to sign with SAP, although contract negotiations were already under way; however, discussions with the software vendor actually began after the department published a Request for Expressions of Interest in September to gather suggestions from the IT industry on how to design and begin construction of Centrelink's new welfare payment system.
Centrelink has been in the spotlight recently, after it emerged over the holiday season that the agency's new automated debt recovery system had letters demanding money repayment sent in error to welfare recipients in Australia.
DHS announced in December that it had implemented the online compliance system in July, and said it was finding approximately AU$4.5 million that had gone awry each day. With this, the federal government hopes to improve the nation's Budget by AU$2.1 billion over the next four years.
The new system automatically compares the income people declare to the Australian Taxation Office against income declared to Centrelink. When it detects a disparity, Centrelink automatically issues a debt notice, and that debt comes with a 10 percent recovery fee.
One large error in the Centrelink system is that it was incorrectly calculating a recipient's income, basing a recipient's fortnightly pay on their annual salary rather than taking a cumulative 26-week snapshot of what an individual was paid.