Student loans rejig still on schedule, budget, says IRD

Inland Revenue insists project will deliver necessary functionality in time to meet legislative changes

Despite allegations of deadline extensions and budget overruns on the student loans upgrade project by anonymous informants, Inland Revenue director of future direction change projects Katrina Williams insists the project is still on schedule to deliver necessary functionality to meet all legislative changes.

However, Williams says she cannot give an estimate of what proportion of the total work has been completed.

When a part-completed Oracle solution was abandoned in May last year, in favour of an approach based on IRD’s ageing FIRST system, deputy commissioner Peter Mersi did not give a definite deadline for completion of the work, saying only that the development would keep pace with the implementation of legislative changes.

Allegations of a 12-month extension to the schedule are unfounded, Williams says in response to Computerworld’s recent request for an update on progress. But work on the project will continue until June next year and now has to include further legislative changes that were not in view when the Oracle project was abandoned.

“It’s important to note that the Student Loan Scheme Act, passed in August 2011, had implementation dates from January 1 2012 through to April 2013,” Williams says. “The majority of the legislative and system changes have already been delivered. Further work will continue until June 2013 to deliver the remaining system and legislative changes in line with the dates specified in the relevant legislation.”

Since the decision to change the implementation approach in May 2011, there have been changes to the project work as a result of the introduction of other student loan policy changes and simplification opportunities, Williams says. “Due to these additional changes, it is difficult to compare the work effort from May 2011 to now.”

“Further changes have been made to student loan policy as a result of changes in Budget 2011 and Budget 2012,” she says. “There have also been simplification opportunities as a result of changing the implementation approach from a loan management solution to using the existing FIRST system.” These changes, she insists, “have not impacted on the schedule or budget.

“The development of the redesigned student loan system is on budget to deliver the changes within the appropriation of $35 million,” she says. $21 million was spent on the project as of March 2011, but IRD has always said this was not all wasted. A “significant amount” of the design work done with some of the $21m has been used in the current development, Williams says in her latest reply.

Eventual replacement of the 20-year-old FIRST system is part of “a long-term programme of significant modernisation of the way we deliver tax and social policy services including a phased approach to technology renewal,” Williams says.

“This programme will be implemented progressively over a period of ten years or more.”

Inland Revenue is preparing a strategic business case for government to consider in line with Treasury’s Better Business Case framework, says Williams. “This is likely to be followed by a series of more detailed business cases. If the proposal is approved, Inland Revenue will go to market for implementation later next year.”

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