The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has agreed to look into adopting a new grants management system after the Australian National Audit Office completed a report which found it to be unreliable to the point of forcing staff to complete work offline.
The system is part of the settlement grants program, which is a federal
program to provide funding to organizations that help new arrivals settle in
DIAC staff had "universally expressed frustration" with the program's systems
in general, the audit report found, as it often failed at crucial periods in the
grants cycle. In one peak two-month period, there were 38 outages.
In addition, the online processing and pre-population function for forms on
the grants management system (GMS) had to be turned off in 2007 because its
drain on the DIAC central processing unit was affecting other department
systems. Reporting was still offline as of February 2009.
This meant that some of the quarterly progress reports and grant applications
were completed offline as grant application assessors provided their assessments
to the technical support team who then individually input each form.
State and territory offices were unable to use the system to produce any
reports on the program. If reports on individual grants or state-wide data were
required, the offices needed to submit a request to the technical support team
which then had to submit a request to a separate area within DIAC to produce the
The report said that when grant payments were to be recommended, grants
managers should only have to press a button, but when they do it kills other
technical processes. So managers have to send an e-mail to technical support who
then enter the recommendation into the system. The systems also don't interact
with the Department's SAP financial management system, which meant that grant
data had to be reconciled manually.
Within the Department's half billion Systems for People upgrade, staff had
believed that their program would be included in a software release on October
2007. However it wasn't, and the problematic systems are not scheduled in the
Systems for People work plan for 2008/2009 or 2009/2010.
None of the staff were sure when the systems would now be replaced. The audit
office recommended in its report that DIAC formally decide the system's
DIAC agreed to the recommendation, saying that it was looking at adopting a
new system, "subject to adequate resourcing being available". The work would go
forward over the coming months.
"GMS was built to manage a single grants program which met our business
objective at that time. As the program has evolved and improvements have been
introduced, the system has not had the capacity to deal with these changes,"
In a separate audit report, the Audit Office recommended that the Department
turn its eyes to the quality of data in a computer database which held
information on people who might be dangerous to Australia for reference when
people tried to enter the country or sought citizenship.
ANAO recommended that DIAC form a plan for population, maintenance and review
of the database which should include, at a minimum, who is responsible for the
data, as well as a course of action for entering, cleansing and reviewing
It also wanted DIAC to clarify when it can record Australian citizens in the
database and to conduct better reporting on the database's performance.