The Victorian government has cancelled VicRoads’ long-suffering registration and licensing (RandL) project and written off nearly $100 million spent on the implementation.
Budget papers handed down yesterday reveal that RandL has been placed on a list of officially 'discontinued' projects.
A spokeswoman for Roads Minister Luke Donnellan told iTnews that Labor had assessed the RandL situation upon forming government and decided to cut its losses.
"The former government independently reviewed RandL in 2014 but didn't make a decision regarding its future," she said.
"After taking into account the independent review the government determined that continuing this project in its current form no longer suited the community's needs.
"Since RandL was first planned, the shift to online transactions through various mobile and other digital platforms has increased significantly and instead VicRoads' focus will shift to the delivery of a digital customer service strategy."
She said the state was "considering its options" on how to deliver modern services to VicRoads customers, and insisted that existing rego and licensing functions would not be affected by the decision.
In March last year the then-Liberal Victorian government put the project on a 12-month hiatus pending a review of what more would be required to get the job done.
“It is not that we did not want to have in place a system that gave us the option to provide the ability for people to pay [car registration fees] by instalments,” former Roads Minister Terry Mulder told Parliament at the time.
“But quite clearly the fumbling, the bumbling, the poor handling and the poor scoping once again of an IT project signed off by the former Labor government have resulted in that project having to be stalled at this point in time,” he said, describing the initiative as “Myki’s little brother” in reference to the state’s similarly troubled electronic ticketing solution.
The Herald Sun reported VicRoads had been advised that finishing the implementation would cost $100 million on top of what had then already been allocated.
According to 2014 budget papers, $97.4 million had been spent on RandL as of June 2014, out of a total estimated budget of $143 million.
However, more recent estimates delivered by the Victorian Auditor General’s Office place the expenditure to date past $270 million.
The March pause was not the first time the RandL implementation was halted in the seven years since its inception. It was first suspended to make way for a project review in 2011, and then restarted in early 2012 following revisions to its design.
The project was dreamt up back in 2008 as a solution for dealing with the legacy systems VicRoads uses to record and issue drivers licences and vehicle registration, which were at serious risk of failure.
In his 2011 report into the state’s worst performing IT projects, Victorian Ombudsman George Brouwer revealed the project had been on an unsteady footing from day one, when VicRoads asked for $156 million for the project and received only $115 million from cabinet. The agency was forced to return for more funding in 2011.
David Shelton, VicRoads rego and licensing boss, said the agency has already started work looking at alternative service delivery measures.
"While significant work was done to establish the RandL system, the focus will shift to delivering our digital customer service strategy," he said.
"This strategy has seen significant improvements to digital and online services which are now available, including a new website, new computerised license testing for learner drivers and an update of the call centre technology platform."
Work already done on RandL will be reused towards this end, he said.
Opposition roads spokesman, David Hodgett, has been approached for comment.