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Philippine govt, IBM quarrel in flood aftermath

Glitch in Philippine pension system causes pileup in emergency loan applications, leading to yet another finger-pointing tiff between GSIS and IBM.
Written by Melvin G. Calimag, Contributor on

MANILA--Government employees rushing to secure emergency loans in the aftermath of Typhoon Kestana have found themselves in a crossfire, as IBM and local pension agency GSIS once again traded accusations over the breakdown of the latter's computer system.

Relations between the two organization were already tense, after the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) in June filed suit against IBM alleging the U.S. tech company's database software DB2 crashed and failed to deliver on its contractual agreement.

The Philippine government is now pointing to DB2 as the cause of a malfunction in its network of Wireless Automated Processing System (G-W@PS) kiosks, which has led to long queues for loan applications, particularly at the GSIS' main office in Pasay City.

Television news footages on Friday showed government workers complaining that the G-W@PS machines were unable to process their loan requests. A female employee was seen crying in frustration while another blasted the GSIS for making up excuses for their inefficiency.

IBM's local office last week issued a statement denying its database software was the cause of delay in processing and approving calamity loans for GSIS members. The subsidiary said it had dispatched a team to conduct an "onsite investigation" after it was notified of the problem by Questronix, its local partner and the project contractor for the GSIS.

"We quickly ascertained it was an inadvertent human error [not related to software] that caused the problem," IBM said.

This was disputed by the GSIS, which said the U.S. tech vendor's "indifference" and "slow response" caused its online loan kiosks to remain offline for over two hours on Oct. 1, the day the G-W@PS kiosks were scheduled to go online. The system crash was the reason why loan applications had piled up, said the government pension agency.

It had called IBM over the phone for assistance, "hoping that IBM could, right there and then, provide the GSIS the necessary action needed to fix DB2". However, the GSIS said, the tech vendor was unable to immediately fix the problem and offered to make an on-site visit.

While waiting for IBM to arrive, the GSIS said its IT staff worked on the problems themselves. "At around 10 in the morning, the GSIS succeeded in finding the problem and applying the necessary corrective action to the IBM DB2. The G-W@PS kiosks were back online at about 10:30a.m.," the government agency said.

When representatives from IBM and Questronix arrived at 11a.m., the problem was already fixed and the kiosks were already working, the GSIS said.

Asked for a rejoinder, IBM Philippines said it remains focused on "providing a service to ensure continuity with clients' business and where necessary, recovery solutions for business operations affected by the floods.

"Our attention is focused squarely on helping the nation at this difficult time," it said.

Melvin G. Calimag is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.

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