A contrite South Australian Treasurer has sought to defend his Government’s handling of a Treasury system overhaul that was meant to be completed more than eight years ago.
Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis was grilled in estimates last week about the upgrade to the state’s revenue collection system RISTEC, which sat idle for six years after being funded in the 2002 budget, and which still won’t be complete until midway though next year.
Koutsantonis also revealed that the treasury – which has already been forced to absorb roughly $10 million in RISTEC cost overruns – will take the third phase of the project out of the hands of systems integrator Fujitsu to instead complete it in-house.
Release three will include conveyancing stamp duty, insurance stamp duty, motor vehicle stamp duty, the first home owner grant and housing construction grants.
The troubled life of RISTEC – or the Revenue SA Information Systems to Enable Compliance – began in 2002 when $22.6 million was allocated to upgrade the system.
However, eight years of tender negotiations and further investigations followed before the initiative finally got off the ground at a revised price of $43.3 million.
Opposition leader Steven Marshall ridiculed the government’s near decade-long delays.
“Goodness gracious, what has been going on there? I have heard of slippage, but a decade? I might use that with my daughter for her birthday party - 'I'll give you a party, but wait until your 21st darling’”.
Koutsantonis conceded that the government was also "disappointed at the outcomes”, but underlined that the Treasury has not yet asked for more taxpayer funds to keep work going.
“The Under Treasurer quite proudly tells me he has not returned to government for a dollar of any overruns for the cost," he said.
“They are attempting to resolve all the issues without being an extra burden on the taxpayer."
Treasury has been forced to find between $8.4 million and $15 million worth of savings from its own internal coffers to keep the project running – which makes the agency “a model department”, according to the Treasurer.
The total cost of the project has now hit $54.1 million, according to the latest SA Budget.
Koutsantonis refused to confirm Marshall’s claims that 35 staff had been assigned to RISTEC on a full-time basis.
“There are a number of employees from Fujitsu who have been working on this and a number of [Department of Treasury and Finance] and RevenueSA staff,” he said.
But “they can walk and chew gum” he argued. “They can multitask”.
He also refused to accede to the opposition leader’s demand that he guarantee no more increases in the RITEC budget.
“I have complete faith in the Under Treasurer and the department to do their very best to minimise any impacts on the taxpayer,” Koutsantonis said.