Inland Revenue believes a solution for Apple computer-based organisations using its trouble-plagued online filing system ir-File will help resolve most of its problems, but users are still complaining of lengthy waiting times and overloading.
"The system is performing, how can I put this, a lot better," says Allan Foubister, IRD's national manager for strategic projects. "We're over 300% ahead of where we were this time last month."
IRD says it has come up with a solution that will allow Apple users to file as easily as PC users. Problems with the system didn't stop with Apple users, however. A number of readers have contacted Computerworld to complain about lengthy waiting times when trying to contact Inland Revenue's helpdesk and a number of problems associated with using Netscape instead of Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser. The site itself is also overloading repeatedly. As one user asks, "Did anyone think to check the bandwidth?"
One customer complained that his user name and password (issued by IRD) were rejected halfway through the filing despite being valid for initially registering online.
Foubister says all these problems have been "taken on board" by Inland Revenue and he is extremely pleased with the progress that has been made. "Those people who have contacted the help- desk with issues will be re-contacted one on one." Foubister says only minor teething problems should remain and they are, for the most part, issues with browser set-ups and things like that.
"By Saturday [May 5] nearly two-thirds had filed successfully."
Extra staff have also been trained to work on the helpdesk ó something Foubister agrees was a major bottleneck in the system. "We just didn't realise what demand would be imposed on the helpdesk on May 5. The number of people who called was just so high." EDS has made a number of changes to the software so the whole system will work more efficiently, says Foubister.
But Paul Thompson, marketing manager for business application specialists InterSoft Systems, says one particular problem is the need to enter all data in alphanumeric format.
"The system doesn't allow for things like brackets, dashes, apostrophes or anything out of the ordinary."
While this may not appear to be much of an issue, Thompson says it requires a lot of re-keying of basic information, like area codes in phone numbers or apostrophes in Samoan or Irish names.
"You have to strip them out of every field, which takes a while." Thompson says most of his clients are getting round this by rekeying all of their data.
"This is supposed to be a money- and time-saving device and it's costing some of our clients a lot of extra time."
Thompson puts a lot of IRD's problems down to a lack of lead-in time. "The test sites weren't available until March, which really didn't give us enough time to be everything in and convert all our clients' information to the new system." He says that, coupled with the changes to ACC payments and the new tax code regime, means developers were rushed trying to get all their information ready.
"The system just isn't fault-tolerant enough for the real world."