New Zealanders’ access to legislation via the internet is still at least three years away despite the Public Access to Legislation (PAL) project originally being scheduled to go live in February 2003.
The government has announced that it has completed its review of the PAL project and will proceed with the original vendor, Unisys.
“The Public Access to Legislation (PAL) Project will resume following agreement between the Parliamentary Counsel Office (PCO) and Unisys on the commercial basis on which the project will be completed, and Cabinet approval of that agreement,” says the official press release, sent out late last night.
The project has been on hold since May 2003 when the government sought “independent assurance that the system, when implemented, would be operationally stable, maintainable and capable of future enhancement”. The review, conducted by an Australian company, InQuirion.
“InQuirion expressed strong reservations about the ability of the current rendering engine [Arbortext Epic Print Composer] to support the PCO’s current rendering needs, let alone future needs,” the PCO announced in June 2004 and went on to say there were problems with the chosen mark-up language. InQuirion has reaffirmed its belief that the project should proceed using XML rather than its parent language, SGML, to ensure the availability of “quality tools for the lifetime of the current PAL system and beyond”.
Since the drafting of the InQuirion report, the government has been negotiating with Unisys over the completion of the project.
“As a result of those negotiations, Unisys will complete the project to agreed time and quality criteria and, when it is completed, Unisys will house and maintain the new PAL system on behalf of the PCO at Unisys’ Kapiti Data Centre” says the statement.
However completion is not expected until late 2006 at the earliest and the government is not saying how much extra the project will now cost. The project, originally slated to cost $5.6 million, blew out to $8.2 million before the review was announced.