MED gives agencies e-govt hurry-up

The Ministry of Economic Development's panel on compliance costs has given government agencies a hurry-along on e-government and e-commerce.

The Ministry of Economic Development’s panel on compliance costs has given government agencies a hurry-along on e-government and e-commerce.

The panel’s report, issued last week, says agencies such as Statistics, ACC and the Ministry for the Environment should be giving more attention to disseminating information and allowing business interaction through the internet, the panel says. Online publication and acceptance of submissions would also be helpful in the legislative process.

Online incentives by Inland Revenue are acknowledged, but it, too, is given a mild prod. “The government should consider requiring IRD to extend the use of e-file technology to all forms, returns and correspondence,” the panel’s report says.

Taxation compliance costs were officially outside the panel’s terms of reference but were considered instrinsic to business. “It was equally clear from the consultation process that business could not comment on compliance costs without considering taxation issues,” says the report.

“The potential of technology to reduce compliance costs was raised throughout the panel’s consultation process,” it says. “Most [submissions to the panel] approved, but some smaller businesses were concerned about the continual costs of upgrading software and retraining staff. There were [also] concerns about privacy and security issues.”

Statistics NZ is working with a number of companies to allow them to supply statistical information directly from their business records via electronic transfer, the report notes. It is “attempting to encourage commercial software houses to create packages where a firm’s regular accounting processes would also create statistical data in a form usable by Statistics NZ”.

However, the panel believes Stats should make “a more concentrated effort to develop reliable transmission of data via the internet”. It considers “that by placing this responsibility with business, there is no incentive for Statistics NZ to create a secure system, nor any incentive for business to use e-technology.”

Deputy government statistician Ian Ewing says his department and government are much of the same mind on the issue. Stats is working on a proposal for a “secure deposit-box” facility, which should provide safer electronic transmission without the complication of digital certificates, he says.

He acknowledges the department has “not encouraged” businesses to submit statistical information electronically because of security and integrity risks. If they wish to do so, they have to sign a written agreement assuming those risks themselves.

Difficulties dealing with ACC included inability to get the organisation to answer questions, and the cost of providing the information it required, says the panel Among other recommendations, it suggests “ACC establish greater use of the internet and the ACC website for education, a question and answer service, filling in ACC claim forms and allowing businesses to check their own ACC information online.”

The Ministry for the Environment should provide electronic templates for applications under the Resource Management Act and set up an RMA bulletin board on the internet, the panel recommends.

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