Sunday, February 26, 2006

GST Computer Opps

Forget about the Firearms Registry, here comes yet another computer based screw up by the Federal Government. Once again rigging together a computer system under incompetent supervision. Not the first time of course, and the same problem that plagues the contracting out of computer operations like the Firearms Registry, is that the Deputy Ministers in charge don't supervise.

RTF's are poorly planned, and basically the bureaucracy resists change and sabotages any computerizing of government services, by omission or commission. Mind you the DM in charge are clueless when it comes to computer systems and rely on being sold by salesman. Don't take this person with you to buy a car.

But the irony of this screw up is well delicious. It's the Conservatives own Gouge and Screw Tax that has been running on the same jerry rigged computer system since they were last in power. Maybe Brian Mulroney knows how to fix it.

Tories inherit troubled GST computer project just as they plan to cut the tax

The replacement was to cost $98.5 million and be running by 2004. But costs have soared and schedules have slipped: the latest official estimate is $145 million, with a new start date of next October.

A newly released audit, however, says even this number is too low. Additional testing, training and compensation to Quebec, which must upgrade its own GST computers in tandem, will push the total cost to about $200 million, more than double original projections.

The auditors, in a December 2005 report obtained by The Canadian Press, give mixed reviews to the new project. Some aspects were well-managed, they found, and some cost overruns were unavoidable.

But high-level supervision of this major government project was inadequate, the report says.

"It was evident that there was a lack of skill sets in certain business areas," says the document. "Formal senior level oversight . . . on a regular basis . . . was not evident."

Project teams "did not have a clear understanding" of aspects of the system, and there were no detailed plans for training or testing, which have helped drive up costs.

Supervisors also failed to deal properly with the problem of corrupt data, which has to be repaired before it can be inputted into the new system. An estimated 740,000 to two million records will require electronic fixes.

The federal government has a badly tarnished record when it comes to implementing new computer systems:

-In 2003, National Defence discovered it had been defrauded of $146 million through bogus invoices related to computer systems.

-A 2003 audit found the Canadian Coast Guard had mismanaged a project to link its ships and shore stations by computer. The original budget of $7.9 million soared to $13.3 million and would likely climb even higher, the audit said.

-An internal audit last year of the military's MASIS computer project, designed to track inventory, estimated the true cost at about $325 million - far in excess of the $147 million planned in 1997.

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