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More Systems for People work at DIAC

by Aleks Vickovich •
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The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has flagged its intention to enhance its visa processing capacity through the acquisition of an end-to-end managed solution in support of online client services.

According to a pre-release notice posted on AusTender this week, DIAC will release an Expression of Interest (EOI) in the week starting 22 November to “assess the ability of the market to deliver” the product.     This process will determine a shortlist, from which suppliers will be invited to respond to a subsequent request for tender (RFT).

The solution will support the Generic Visa Portal (GVP), which was developed and implemented as part of the broader ICT transformation project taking place at DIAC since 2006, known as ‘Systems for People’.

DIAC was one of the largest beneficiaries of government ICT funding in the 2010-11Federal Budget.  According to Intermedium’s Budget IT tool, the department received a total allocation of $248.3 million for 2010-11 and over the forward estimates period, which positioned it as the third highest ICT funding recipient following the Attorney General’s Department ($320.7m) and Department of Health and Ageing ($560.1m). 

Moreover, Budget IT data indicates that of this allocation, $169.9 million has been provided specifically for the Systems for People project.  Intermedium’s data shows that  $41.7 million will be spent over the 2010-11 financial year. 

In 2006, DIAC contracted IBM to deliver Systems for People in what still stands as the largest single ICT systems integration contract ever announced by the Federal Government.  IBM was announced as heading a consortium which included Microsoft, Oracle, Siebel, Tibco, RuleBurst and APIS Consulting. 

 According to the pre-release notice, the GVP processes visas using “globally consistent business processes”.  More specifically, the portal “uses rules engine technology and sophisticated risk based rules algorithms to dynamically determine both the amount and type of data needed from a visa applicant to stream the applicant into differing levels of assessment integrity based on their individual risk profile”. 

The department expects that the end-to-end managed solution will allow for a significant increase in the number of online visa lodgements and will take full advantage of the risk-based processing capability of the GVP. 

“The anticipated solution will deliver online client accounts and supporting functionality such as data acquisition, document management, payment processing, appointment booking, messaging and correspondence management,” the pre-release notice states.  The solution will support as many as 4.5 million applications per annum for 150 visa types from applicants in locations around the world. 

While DIAC’s large ICT allocation and the priority placed on the Systems for People project has been clear for some time,  the pre-release notice is the first indication of how the budget funding will be spent.

The proposed enhancement to online client services aligns with the objectives of the Systems for People program.  The project’s overarching aim was to consolidate the formerly numerous IT platforms in operation at DIAC into a single portal and provide efficiency benefits to staff and clients. 

According to a post on the DIAC website, the department seeks to provide a “system which will better serve our clients through more efficient client identification, ability to view the full client record, consistent operating processes and easily accessible instructions, integrated record keeping, effective quality assurance processes, accessible online training and effective reporting”.

The transformation project was developed in response to the Palmer and Comrie Reports, which were released several months apart in 2005, and exposed a number of high-profile detention and deportation errors by DIAC in 2003 and 2004.  According to the DIAC-commissioned evaluation of the Palmer and Comrie reform agenda, the reports “made recommendations about the IT systems in DIAC” that sought to remedy the “culture that ignores criticism and is unduly defensive”. 

DIAC also lists the Business Information Needs Review (BINR) conducted by Apis Consulting Group in 2005 as an influential factor in the development of the Systems for People project. 

The Systems for People contract was originally announced at$495m, but following both cost blow outs and alterations to its scope, the total projected cost had reached $659.1 million, at the time of publication of DIAC’s 2008-09 Annual Report

DIAC will be holding an industry briefing session in Canberra on 24 November to “assist respondents to understand the Department’s requirements”.

Interested vendors are required to pre-register in order to be eligible to lodge an application once the EOI has been released.  

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