Department of Human Services officials have confirmed that a business case two years in the making for the billion-dollar replacement of Centrelink’s payments engine was submitted to Government at the beginning of this month.
Appearing before a Senate estimates hearing yesterday, Human Services Minister Marise Payne hinted that a plan for how to proceed with the hefty technology task could be revealed in the May budget.
“The business case has been provided to Government and the matter is now under consideration by Government, and is being considered as part of the budget process,” Payne told the committee.
She joined the chorus of government ministers putting their weight behind the billion dollar overhaul now that the department has completed its case for change - which itself cost $16.2 million to compile.
DHS secretary Kathryn Campbell lent a sense of urgency to the discussion, arguing “we need to do something about the system now...I worry about some of the risks if we do not take some action”.
Despite a green light for the replacement now looking more likely, ministers have yet to indicate how the work might pan out, and who will take on the task.
In March last year, the final report of the national commission of audit suggested DHS might outsource the operation and maintenance of a new platform to the private sector, taking it out of the hands of the agency's thousands-strong IT shop.
The Commonwealth has already kicked off a similar process to privatise the processing of Medicare payments.
In August last year the Department of Health launched an expression of interest process to gauge the willingness of market operators to take on transacting $19 billion in medical benefits claims, $10 billion in pharmaceutical claims and nearly $2.5 million worth of veteran’s affairs claims every year.
Earlier this month a health spokeswoman advised iTnews the EOI process was still with the department, and "possible next steps are under consideration”.