The first Centrelink payments have begun flowing through the SAP-based centralised payments platform built under the welfare payments infrastructure transformation (WPIT) program.
Services Australia's transformation projects deputy CEO Charles McHardie told senate estimates last week that, as of today, two payment types will be administered using the platform, dubbed ‘Payment Utility'.
Payment Utility has been built over the past two years as part of the billion-dollar Centrelink overhaul to replace the payments capability in the legacy income security integrated system (ISIS).
It has been designed as a white-label service that can be used across Services Australia, as well as the rest of government, to deliver real-time payments through the New Payments Platform.
“Where we sit at the moment is we already have one payment up and running - which we released six weeks ago - which was parenting allowance. That's working very well for use,” he said.
“Then next Tuesday [November 3], we go live with pensions, so that’s quite a large payment cohort and that’s been developed in … the SAP S/4 HANA technology capability.”
McHardie, who replaced former WPIT chief John Murphy in May, said the Payment Utility platform was one of two major IT replacements that will take place under tranche four of the program.
The other major compoment is the entitlements calculation engine solution that Infosys began building under a $143 million contract in July following a seven-month proof-of-concept.
The engine, which is based on Pegasystems software, will be used by Services Australia to determine the entitlements eligibility of welfare recipients and how much to pay them.
It will also be used to calculate aged care payments, as well as veterans income support and the modernisation of Medicare systems, at a later date.
“The entitlement calculation engine ... is really the heart of the ISIS system,” McHardie said.
“The ISIS system has about 30 million lines of code - so it's quite complex - and around 1 million lines of that code base is related to entitlement calculations, so this is basically where a customer submits a claim to us and tells us the circumstance of their situation.
“The system takes that circumstance, any information we already know about them in the core database that supports it, plus any additional information that’s been input by staff as part of that claims process, and comes up with an entitlement calculation based on social security legislation rules, which sit in that system.
“Based on that, then Payment Utility will make the payment through the Reserve Bank.”
Single staff interface
In addition to the two major IT replacements, McHardie said tranche four will also see Services Australia replace “all of the screens” used by staff with a single staff interface.
He said there are around “3500 screens” used by staff in the legacy system “when they process new claims and when they deal with claim maintenance activity”.
But over the next two years, those screens will be replaced by a “new SAP system - which is proven - that we’ve built out under previous tranches of the program”.
“[This] will then allow staff to operate in only one system, with a greatly reduced number of screens … to be able to speed up the claims processing activity for them,” he said.
Tranche four commenced in July, and has been funded to the tune of $540 million over four years in the 2020 budget, suggesting the project could take two years longer to complete.