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ATO ties supplier contracts to staff, community satisfaction

The Australian Taxation Office today revealed details of its plan to re-tool its vendor service level agreements to make its technology suppliers partially accountable to the department's internal and external users.

The Australian Taxation Office today revealed details of its plan to re-tool its vendor service level agreements to make its technology suppliers partially accountable to the department's internal and external users.

With the ATO poised to move into the third phase of its ambitious, four-year, AU$350 million change program, deputy tax commissioner, Greg Farr, today said that the organisation would abandon service level agreements based on technical specifications in favour of contracts based on outcomes, including "community satisfaction" with new systems.

ATO chief information officer, Bill Gibson said that the service level agreements weren't currently being "applied consistently through the whole service chain".

"We will [want] to express our standards more consistently with how our external and internal customers see us, so that's actually turning the whole IT mind set on its head," said Gibson.

Farr said the new contracts would bundle key performance measures alongside a range of ancillary indicators including cost savings, speed of implementation, and staff and community perceptions of services linked to the contracts.

Farr said the measures would apply to existing contracts with its current outsourcing supplier EDS, and Accenture which won a federal tender to supply the core tax processing system to be implemented as a part of the change program, which enters its roll-out phase next year.

"We actually take base-line readings and key performance indicators, and that will form part of the contract into the next phase [of the program]. So, what we'll be agreeing to with them is not for 17,000 user requirements -- which we probably only ever get 5,000 anyway -- but it would, very clearly, be outcomes," said Farr.

Farr said that the new service levels were a natural consequence as the ATO's systems evolved toward real-time processing, entwining them more tightly with business operations than they have to date.

"What we're finding is that as things happen in real-time there's a completely different dynamic in the IT area," he said, later adding: "Accountants are already saying, in the tax agent's portal for example -- which gives them the ability to logon and view [their] client's records exactly the same as we do -- 'if it goes down our accountancy practice stops'".

Gibson said that the ATO earned in excess of a million dollars worth of service credits against its bill during FY-2004 due to failures to "instances when [the ATO] had a lack of service."