In what must come as a breath of fresh air for the Australian Tax Office (ATO), an ANAO audit of the ATO Change Program’s Client Contact - Work Management -Case Management system (CWC) component has found a number of ICT achievements including improved client interactions and administration.
CWC uses Siebel (now Oracle) off-the-shelf Customer Relationship Management software to provide its core functionality.
However, despite the overall positive nature of the findings, the audit also found that there is “scope for improvement”.
Among other recommendations, it identified that a reduction in the scheduled cycle time for many cases could be achieved through the “centralisation of ATO information holdings in a data warehouse which facilitates greater accessibility to client data.”
The objective of the audit was to assess the implementation of the CWC across four key areas:
1. “Progress of the CWC against the endorsed Change Program business case;
2. Improvements to the productivity and efficiency of tax administration as a result of the implementation of the CWC;
3. Improvements to client experiences when dealing with the Tax Office as a result of the implementation of the CWC; and
4. Effects of the CWC implementation, including additional benefits achievable beyond its current capacity to further improve tax administration.”
The Change Program is intended to improve integration, community compliance and administrative services at the ATO. The Integrated Core Processing (ICP) component of the Program caused a number of problems with tax refund processing last financial year, but the problems with the ICP were not in scope of this performance audit.
“The implementation of the CWC has improved and transformed key aspects of Tax Office activity that support tax administration. The Integrated CWC system has provided a new approach to managing internal administration and communication arrangements with taxpayers, tax professionals and the community. The Tax Office now manages correspondence and work resulting from telephone calls on a national, enterprise‐wide basis, rather than in a fragmented regional way,” states Auditor-General Ian McPhee in his report.
The report finds that improvements in “productivity, integrity and efficiency of tax administration” have made a major contribution to the ATO’s administrative functioning by the CWC”.
Client relationship interactions were also highlighted as a major improvement brought about by the CWC, the system providing a “single platform for the ATO to manage active casework, thereby improving client experiences by reducing the number of disparate systems, business processes and business area‐centric resources.”
According to the report, the introduction of the Consolidated Client View (CCV) system has been central to the improved functionality of CWC’s client interactions. The CCV system has allowed the ATO to improve client services by providing staff with a single source of client information.
“The CCV reduces the time required to determine proof of identity and allows CSRs (Customer Service Representatives) and other ATO staff to provide advice that is more specific to a client needs. Staff can see in a single view all relevant information about a client’s details, contact history, correspondence, advice, case activity and transactions.
“Previously the ATO used labour intensive, paper-based systems. The use of the CWC has transformed the process into a multi-channel electronic work management system, which allocates work and correspondence to appropriately skilled teams with team members obtaining their work through an electronic in-tray,” states the report.
However, beyond these positive findings the report also highlights several ICT issues where there is scope for improvement, issuing recommendations for each.
Limitations within the search functionality of the CWC as well as “the requirement for case officers to re-enter the same data at several stages during a case,” were highlighted as key areas for improvement.
The report also recommends an upgrade of the CWC and its compliance risk model. The report explains that:
“The compliance risk model was not applied consistently in the set up of risks and issues in the CWC. The compliance risk model was designed to operate by identifying risks on a whole of tax administration basis that would then facilitate a consistent approach to those risks across all business lines within the Tax Office. Instead, each business line individually developed a risks and issues profile based on identified risks associated with its work”.
The report also recommends that the ATO perform a review of their “scheduled case cycle time”, which measures the amount of time to be spent on a case.
The majority of the CWC was estimated by the ATO to have cost $282 million, or about 63% of the proposed total (approved business case) of the Change Program cost of $445 million. Following scope increases requested by the government, the estimated total cost of the Change Program as at 30 June 2010 is $824 million, according to the Audit Report.
The Report also stated that “the approved Change Program business case anticipated an implementation timeframe of four years, of which delivery of Releases 1 and 2 constituted approximately six and 15 months respectively. The actual implementation dates for Releases 1 and 2 were April 2006 (10 months later than originally planned) and March 2007 (six months later than originally planned) respectively.”
Despite the positive tone of this report, it is likely that upcoming audit of the Integrated Core Processing component of the Change Program will not be so favourable. The industry press was highly critical of the program and upon requesting an audit report of the ICP, former Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry expected it would “determine who is responsible”.