The Ministry of Social Development is pointing to the successful implementation of new technology as part of its answer to criticisms raised in a report from the Auditor-General last week.
Deputy Auditor-General Philippa Smith wrote in an audit report released last week that a year after changes to determine eligibility for sickness and invalid benefits, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) hadn’t initiated regular contact with beneficiaries, nor implemented a Client Management System and secured all the contracts for new health services.
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While the Client Management System is mentioned in the introduction to the report, it does not feature in its recommendations. The Auditor-General’s office clarified to Computerworld that its use of the term “implemented” relates to MSD fully using the system rather than the need to deploy technology.
MSD says its Curam Client Management System (CMS) was installed within its $54 million budget in November 2008. The audit was conducted between September and December 2008.
“MSD’s Client Management System provides staff with the ability to automatically assess clients’ eligibility to employment and training services. This assessment is based around clients’ individual circumstances. Prior to the introduction of CMS staff were required to manually assess eligibility,” an MSD spokeswoman says.
The ministry says it will continue to extend CMS to support policy and service delivery developments.
“Over time the system will draw together all information about clients’ overall situation, needs and skills streamlining administration time and supporting best practice case management,” MSD says.
“The ministry is continuing to examine progressively implementing functionality of its current business critical systems in Cúram over several years.”
The Auditor-General’s report says that at the time of the audit, changes were starting to take effect but were not being delivered consistently.
Smith, writes in the report that changes put in place in September 2007 were expected to result in savings of $49 million a year by 2010-11.
“Although it is too early to expect to see significant outcomes from the changes, the systems for gathering the monitoring data should have been in place from the outset,” Smith writes.
MSD says in the past staff manually created service plans with clients. The CMS has automated this process so plans are now automatically created when an assessment is completed for a client.
The CMS supports case managers to gather relevant information about clients which assists in determining the most appropriate services, MSD says. In turn case managers can now see at a glance where their client’s circumstances require reviewing.
Smith says that until the ministry establishes regular and effective contact with all beneficiaries, according to their circumstances and needs, it will not be able to achieve the full case management benefits of the programme.
There’s a lot at stake. In 2008-09 MSD spent around $1.9 billion on sickness and invalid benefits. In June, there were around 54,000 receiving a sickness benefit and 84,000 receiving an invalid’s benefit.
MSD’s core Swiftt benefits system was to be converted to Java early this year. The ministry says it has been rigorously tested before being delivered. Full delivery will be complete by the end of the year.
“We’re committed to making this transition bullet proof,” says David Habershon, CIO for the ministry.
“As a result we structured the replatforming of the Swiftt and Trace applications as two separate projects to ensure a low risk, phased delivery and implementation.
“The Java platform will enable the ministry to develop new software solutions which can be fully integrated with the existing systems, adding further value over time.”