IT underinvestment not cause of outages: ATO

The ATO has stated that underinvestment in its technology infrastructure is not to blame for its bout of website and portal outages.

“I wasn’t in the space when we had the outages, but the reason I point this out is having come into the space in April, it was astonishing to me how much work had happened to make sure we were going to be ready for tax time this year,” ATO chief digital officer John Dardo told the Accountants’ Technology Showcase Australia 2017 Conference in Sydney last week.

“Most people don’t know that those outages were not because of an underinvestment – we had a new 2015 kit installed, the best-of-breed kit and the best-of-breed provider, so it wasn’t an underinvestment by the ATO that resulted in those outages.

“That kit is a kit that’s installed in banks and insurance companies and telephone companies around the world, so it was not expected to have it fail in the way that it did.”

Tax agents and practitioners were affected by last December’s prolonged ATO online outages, as well as additional outages in January/February and June/July this year.

The Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) had previously said it will consider pursuing compensation on behalf of its members for adverse impacts on business productivity and damage to client relationships.

“The ATO negotiated compensation from Hewlett Packard Enterprise in relation to the December and February outages via an out-of-court settlement, so they were compensated for some of the impacts, but unfortunately for the users, there was nothing in the wind other than an apology,” IPA technical policy general manager Tony Greco told selfmanagedsuper in July.

“We wouldn’t be saying compensation is warranted if it was a one-off instance because we understand that things can sometimes go wrong as isolated cases, et cetera; it must be looked at from the perspective of many outages and causing real productivity losses.

“It’s an ongoing saga.”

Dardo highlighted that the ATO has since recovered from the outages.

“You’ve got to remember that this tax time is the best tax time that we’ve ever seen in the digital space,” he said.

“We’ve processed more returns at this point in time than any prior year, we’ve put more refunds out with less delay than any other time in any other year, and we’ve managed more exceptions – it has been, statistically, the best time tax time the ATO has ever had.

“Having come into that space and having seen how much work was being put in by the IT guys to recover from those outages and be ready for tax time, I am in awe of the work that they did.”

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