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King interim ATO CIO post Gibson

by Pallavi Singhal •
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The Australian Tax Office’s (ATO) loss of both its long-standing Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer in the space of two months represents a new dawn for the agency, which has decided to use the opportunity to enhance the scope of the CIO role to better integrate ICT into its broader ongoing transformations.

CIO Bill Gibson’s recent resignation that is to be effective from 14 November 2014 closely follows CTO Todd Heather’s departure on 8 October 2014.

“With these departures, the role of the CIO will be changed to increase our focus on workforce and financial management, IT strategy and project governance, in addition to the current oversight responsibility for the whole of Enterprise Solutions and Technology,” a spokesperson for the ATO told Intermedium.

“Recruitment of a new CIO is expected to occur around the middle of next year.”

Gibson and Heather have been in their ATO roles for 11 and 10 years respectively, and this once-in-a-decade reassessment of the top ICT job aligns with the ATO’s ongoing workforce adjustment activities and the broader emphasis on rationalising agencies through a more efficient use of technology made by the National Commission of Audit.

Deputy Commissioner of the Workforce Adjustment Project Jane King will be acting in the CIO position from 17 November 2014 until a permanent CIO is recruited. Given the emphasis of her current role on workforce reduction, the increasing relevance of the CIO and technology functions in facilitating cutbacks in other areas is likely to become visible at the ATO in coming years.

Geoff Robinson, who is currently First Assistant Commissioner of Service Operations will now undertake King’s duties in relation to the Organisational Realignment Program.

The ATO is currently tasked with cutting at least 3,000 staff. 1,400 employees were issued redundancies in 2013-14, and a further 2,000 are expected to depart in 2014-15.

“As CIO, [King] will focus on how Enterprise Solutions and Technology delivers and engages with the organisation for both our routine business and our transformation agenda. [She] will concentrate on client service, de-cluttering and streamlining processes, pushing decision making down to the right level, and driving cultural change,” said the ATO spokesperson.

Gibson and Heather led the ATO’s Enterprise Solutions and Technology Division, which is part of the People, Systems and Services Group headed by Second Commissioner Geoff Leeper. The Division’s current major projects include the development of the ATO’s knowledge management strategy and the implementation of the Government’sStandard Business Reporting (SBR) solution for ATO services.

Since their appointments in 2003 and 2004, Gibson and Heather have been involved in the ATO’s reform of both back-end and customer-facing systems and digitisation of services in recent years, culminating in the extensive rollout of MyTax this year in time for 2013-14 tax submissions. 

The ATO has been one of the first agencies outside of the Department of Human Services to offer services through the Government’s myGov portal. It is also embracing mobile service delivery, with MyTax now available on smartphones, tablets and computers.

In a June 2014 address to the national Tax Practitioner Conference, Leeper outlined plans to pursue the further digitisation of its operations, including delivering electronic notice of assessments to taxpayers by mid-2015 and employing biometric technology for proof of identity for its estimated 8 million annual mobile transactions.

Additionally, the ATO has indicated its intention to begin sharing its extensive data repository as depersonalised datasets for “whole-of-government and public use”, according to comments by Gibson at the August 2014 Technology in Government conference.

Changes are also on the horizon for IT suppliers working with the ATO, with a new portfolio-wide ICT Services panellikely to encompass the agency’s major end-user and centralised computing services contracts worth a combined total of around $1.5 billion.

The agency is also reforming the way it conducts IT Contractor procurement, with an ongoing revision of its IT Contractor Panel to improve processes and reduce supplier costs.  

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