Infosys handed contract to overhaul Centrelink's welfare calculation engine

The contract will see a 'significant portion' of the 30-year-old welfare system replaced.

The Australian government's Services Australia has handed Infosys the responsibility to help overhaul a "significant portion" of Australia's 30-year-old welfare payment system as part of the billion-dollar Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation (WPIT) program.

Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert made the announcement during his address at an Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) event in Canberra on Friday afternoon, saying the current system entitlement calculation engine (ECE), which is used to calculate welfare entitlements for Australians, has "more lines of code than the Air Force's frontline fighter aircraft the F-35A".

Under phase one of the project, Infosys will deliver a proof of design that will be completed by mid-2020. For phase two, which is subject to further approval, will see Infosys build, implement, and support the new ECE system on a Pegasystems platform.

When completed, the ECE platform is expected to enable Services Australia to respond more quickly to policy changes.

"A robust, responsive and agile welfare entitlements system is crucial for all Australians, particularly those in need, so Infosys is tremendously proud to support Services Australia on such a transformational project that underpins the Australian community and broader economy," said Andrew Groth, Infosys Australia and New Zealand region head and senior vice president.

See also: Australian government to bring all services online by 2025  

To support its technical team that will service the project, Infosys said it will open an office in Canberra.

The contract announcement comes just days after the federal government conceded that parts of its automated debt recovery process known as robo-debt are unlawful, following a test case brought by Victoria Legal Aid and Deanna Amato in Federal Court.

On Monday, the government sent a letter to the Court stating its averaging process, 10% penalty fee, and seizing of tax returns were unlawful, Victoria Legal Aid said.

The projects also follows on from work by Accenture, which was selected in 2017 to provide systems integration services for the WPIT program. The company was contracted to produce a new online user interface for the system and a new payment utility so payments could be delivered to recipients faster, as well as design the end-state technology solution for future phases.

SAP was awarded AU$34 million in 2016 on the provision of preparatory planning and design work of the WPIT program.

Services Australia remained in charge of the WPIT program when the Department of Human Services adopted the new name in May.

The WPIT program has been previously labelled as the biggest digital transformation the government has embarked upon by former Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge, who estimated the project will take seven years to complete.

In March, Centrelink transferred urgent and emergency welfare payments onto Australia's New Payments Platform (NPP) to ensure payments can happen in real-time, following a six-month trial.

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