The Government will spend more than $14 million upgrading near-new software designed to computerise the drafting and publication of legislation. The troubled $28.4m New Zealand Legislation system — previously called PAL — was launched in 2008, five years after its original due date, costing five times more than first budgeted. The Parliamentary Counsel Office has already spent $4.1m on system maintenance and improvements since 2008. Spokeswoman Gillian McIlraith says the $10m in capital expenditure budgeted for the system over the next four years will cover further improvements to the search and browse functions of the New Zealand Legislation website. The office will also simplify the "technical structure" of the system to make it easier and more efficient to operate for those drafting legislation. Other enhancements include establishing a back-up system that can be operated remotely in the event of a core system or computer failure, and could see repealed and historic legislation made available for search through the website, she says. By 2014, the office plans to go to market for a new support provider in a bid to reduce costs. System supplier Unisys is providing support and maintenance services, but a review of the system carried out after its launch revealed the office was paying Unisys significantly more than originally agreed. Ms McIlraith says the money for the system improvements is "depreciation income", and was approved by the Labour Government in 2008. "It is usual to invest depreciation income back into a complex IT system, to ensure its longevity and sustainability." The system includes various "standard IT products" and bespoke features in order to manage legislation from drafting through to publication. "The level of system support, maintenance and enhancement is typical for such an integrated drafting and publication package." The system provides free access to up-to-date legislation, and makes it possible for users to track the progress of bills, and will reduce costs for users and purchasers of legislation once the website is officially recognised in 2012 as a source of legislation, she says. "For many there will no longer be a need to maintain as many — or possibly in some cases any — sets of printed copies of New Zealand statues and regulation ... significantly reducing the costs of acquisition, to zero in some cases, and the costs of storage." Unisys New Zealand managing director Brett Hodgson says it has a good relationship with the office and plans to be involved in supporting the system in future. "A number of independent reviews have put it at the forefront in their industry worldwide. It's never fallen over... and every month there are 30,000 visitors to the site. It's certainly meeting the demands and expectations it was launched under."
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