Union hits out at proposed offshoring of ATO test & dev

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Union hits out at proposed offshoring of ATO test & dev

Tax Office insists no financial data will be stored overseas.

Australia’s public service union has kicked up a stink over a proposal being assessed by the Tax Office that would see its application development and testing sent to the Philippines.

The ATO has confirmed that it is thinking about handing its test and dev functions to Accenture, which already undertakes hundreds of millions of dollars worth of IT work for the agency. Under the deal, the work would be supported out of Accenture’s Philippines-based delivery centre.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has described the proposal as a kick in the teeth for ATO staff, who have already been forced to deal with the prospect of thousands of job losses out of the agency.

“We are seeking an urgent meeting with ATO management to demand some answers. This news has not gone down well with Tax staff who are already reeling from the loss of 3000 jobs and the closure of 11 regional offices,” said CPSU Deputy President Alistair Waters.

“Most Australians would be horrified if the Government allowed their highly sensitive tax information to be offshored,” he said.

However the ATO has insisted that the tax details of millions of Australians will not be going overseas, even if the deal does go ahead.

“If we proceed, no ATO data would be sent or stored offshore,” said a spokesman.

“As with all IT proposals, we would need assurances that the application development and testing would be done in accordance with our IT standards and commonwealth security guidelines,” he added.

“This proposal does not replace ATO staff and no ATO jobs would be affected.”

But the CPSU remains deeply worried about the growing volume of IT outsourcing that is emerging from Canberra.

It says the Department of Health has already confirmed that work contracted to Accenture as infrastructure partner to the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record will be done from India.

Accenture has been paid more than $100 million to date for its PCEHR infrastructure support, and another $111 million for associated data warehousing.

However a Health spokesperson pointed out that this has been the case since Accenture was first engaged in 2011, and there are no plans to expand on the Bangalore-based support.

“Accenture does have an off-shore team that is involved in coding of changes to the system that are then shipped to Australia for testing, integration and implementation by the local team.

“This off-shore team does not have access to the operational PCEHR system and no PCEHR records are able to be accessed by any off-shore developers,” she said.

Only weeks ago Health Minister Peter Dutton confirmed that the government was also looking for IT vendors that might be interested in taking over Medicare payments processing on the Government’s behalf – although there is no suggestion yet that these too may be sent offshore.

“It would be good to see this Government back jobs rather than preside over yet more job losses,” said Waters.

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