Pensions and welfare payments do not appear to have been affected by the outage at the Reserve Bank of Australia’s main data centre that hit some payments systems on Thursday afternoon.
In a statement issued on Thursday evening, Australia’s central bank said that “retail and corporate customers are able to make and receive payments including payments made through the New Payments Platform.”
Crucially, the RBA said “domestic payments, including pensions, are also being processed.”
The prospect of government payments being hit by the outage is understood to have triggered a series of urgent meetings in retail banks and some government agencies after it was initially unclear to if the RITS (Reserve Bank Information and Transfer System) had been affected.
RITS is the RBA's high-value settlement system that banks and other payments organisations use to settle payment obligations between each other.
There had been initial concern in some institutions that potential disruptions to RITS and other payments processing could cascade into government payments if systems were not brought back up speedily.
The RBA processes payments on behalf of federal government agencies including Human Services and the Australian Taxation Office.
Amid the rising concerns, on Thursday night Human Services gave the reassurance its payments run had rolled.
"We can confirm that all Department of Human Services’ payments have been made," Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen told iTnews.
The highly unusual outage at the RBA has been blamed on “routine maintenance of the Bank's fire control systems” that it said interrupted power to its main data centre at head office.
The RBA had earlier told customers that it had switched to its secondary data centre.
Ironically prospect of settlements between institutions being interrupted has highlighted the increased continuity the New Payments Platform offers over batched transactions.
In simple terms, because real time payments are settled close to instantly, the build-up of a settlements backlog that is cleared through batching is reduced because money flows immediately.
The RBA outage comes just weeks after the central bank suggested that regulators were now focusing on operational risks associated with retail payment systems and whether their operators and participants had appropriately high standards of resilience.