The project is designed to streamline the costs and processes associated with tax compliance. It includes the replacement of both front-end systems and back-end processing systems.
Briefing ZDNet Australia in Canberra on the status of the change program, ATO second commissioner Greg Farr revealed the decision was made after consultations between senior ATO officials, contractor Accenture and so-called "independent assurance partner" Capgemini, which has taken an oversight role on the program.
The parties were, he said, "comfortable" with the risk profile of the four-year program, which would conclude in 2008. Capgemini had described the original three-year timeframe as "very high-risk" and "very aggressive".
Farr also revealed the ATO had awarded an AU$253 million, four-year, fixed-price deal to consultants Accenture to deliver software and services for the project.
Farr, whose role at the ATO encompasses many of the duties of a chief operating officer, also revealed that after discussions with ATO commissioner Michael Carmody, he had discharged to others all his responsibilities bar those associated with information technology and the change program.
Carmody's decision that he should do so, Farr said, was based on the size, complexity and risk of the project and the IT transformation required for the ATO to achieve its objectives.
The contract signed by Accenture was, Farr said, based heavily on 10 so-called "stage gates", which the consultancy had to leap over for payments to be released.
If Accenture failed to make an individual stage gate, it would be required to bear not only the costs for remediation, but any incurred by the ATO as well.
The contract goals are based on a series of outcome statements, such as "An integrated processing system (people/process/technology) for all Tax Office products" and "An effective active compliance and advice capability," giving Accenture scope to be creative in how they deliver those outcomes.
Farr also revealed the ATO was still considering whether or not to establish another centre -- most likely in Melbourne -- with a minimum of 100 staff, including developers, help-desk and management, to help with customer relationship management and telephony development. Presently, the majority of its development work is undertaken in Canberra and Brisbane.
The ATO is planning to send its new Siebel customer relationship management system - which will allow call centre operators to gain access to a much broader picture of a callers' history with the ATO -- live in early April.
The ATO -- which already images around 19 million documents a year -- is embarking on a process to image all correspondence and forms that come into the organisation, allowing operators to get a still-better picture of a callers' history.
The ATO has opted not to go for a commercial portal product as those assessed did not have the scalability to manage the transaction loads and security requirements of the tax office.