Services Australia prepares to shift active legacy capabilities as part of WPIT overhaul

Service Australia's WPIT program may be in its final year, but the agency has its sight set on other projects such as rolling out the myGov app and its birth of a child project.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor on

With Services Australia's costly Welfare Payments Infrastructure Transformation (WPIT) now in its final year of delivery, the agency said it would transition over half of all active legacy capabilities used to distribute welfare payments in Australia into its new technology platform by June 2022.

The WPIT project is in its sixth year and is slated to cost around AU$1.6 billion. It was kicked off by the Department of Human Services, now Services Australia, to replace the then 30-year-old Income Security Integrated System (ISIS).

The new entitlement calculation engine (ECE) is being built on a Pegasystems rules engine.

"The new ECE platform allows Services Australia to obtain readily available resources from the market, as Pega is a configurable, off-the-shelf product with a wide user base," Services Australia transformation projects deputy CEO Charles McHardie said, speaking during the virtual Gartner APAC IT Symposium/Xpo.

"It's a modern, modular, adaptive, and scalable rules engine that will provide greater flexibility and speed, as we implement new legislation and policy in the social security welfare space. It is designed to handle in excess of one million calculation transactions per hour, utilising a secure distributed architecture."

Read: Services Australia defends use of Excel in rectifying robo-debt errors

On completion, the ECE is expected to deliver entitlement calculations capability for over 126 welfare payments and supporting services, McHardie said.

"Once this phase is completed, approximately half of Centrelink program outlays will then be calculated in the new entitlement calculation engine," he said.

"This will establish technological capability that is reusable across government. It will also provide an easier, more flexible system. It will allow ECE to undertake rule simulation to better inform budget costings and the service delivery aspects of future policy changes."

Being able to move the legacy welfare payment capabilities comes as Services Australia completed the first build phase of its ECE platform in September.

"There were a range of foundational achievements during this build phase that allowed us to move forward and set ourselves up for the next program increment," McHardie said.

"Examples of these achievements include building out over 12,500 rules in the new Pega platform, running over 50 customer scenarios end-to-end through the calculation engine with the correct outcomes generated … and developing and launching the Services Academy, which is the agency's primary resource for Pega-related information and learning materials, which is a commitment to developing our staff skills."

In other ongoing works, McHardie said Services Australia would deliver the first iteration of the myGov app due for release in December. It will be delivered under the AU$200 million commitment the federal government made towards myGov -- the single portal to access all government services -- as part of Budget 2021.

Read also: Six unplanned myGov outages in 20-21 with the longest one lasting 90 minutes

The myGov app, according to McHardie, will have a wallet function, which can store digital government credential information, such as international COVID-19 digital certificates.

"MyGov has been instrumental in changing the way Australians access government service. It has limitations; myGov needs to do more to keep up with the demands of modern service delivery and customer expectations," McHardie said.

"An enhanced myGov will significantly improve people's experience in dealing with government, offering a central front door to online government services that includes a broader range of whole-of-government capabilities."

Services Australia is also currently undertaking a pilot with the ACT government to make it easier for new parents to enrol and register their newborn baby with Medicare.

Dubbed as the birth of a child project, the pilot will enable participating parents to provide information once through the hospital, which will then be shared with Services Australia using a trusted data exchange to enrol the newborn baby for Medicare services.

"For the pilot, we use the digital gateway to receive information from the hospital for Centrelink payments and assist in registering births with Registries of Birth, Death and Marriage," McHardie said.

"This will mean parents will no longer have to complete three separate forms and interact with three different government organisations to register their baby's birth. It will also increase the integrity of information held by multiple agencies by using a single set of identity data from a trusted source."

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