Victorian fines law delayed by 18 months after IT bungle

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Victorian fines law delayed by 18 months after IT bungle

Bespoke ditched for COTS.

Victoria's parliament has agreed to push back the start date of reforms to fines enforcement in the state by 18 months, to accommodate delays caused by its failed IT system replacement.

The state's Fines Reform Act was introduced in 2014 to tackle a disparate approach to the management of unpaid fines accrued by citizens.

The state government imposes fines and handles arrears and accrual matters through several different agencies, creating complexity in the management of the "growing balance sheet item" that extends into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The 2014 reforms aimed to streamline and centralise the process for managing outstanding fines, supported by an underlying technology platform that was due to go live by June 30 this year in line with the new legislation.

However, auditor-general Peter Frost in March revealed the government had been forced to write off $60 million from the infringement management and enforcement system (IMES) project after vendor Tenix Solutions walked away from the scheme mid last year.

Tenix had been awarded the deal in 2007 after submitting the lowest bid and was given free rein to specify the solution functionality.

Within six months, Tenix returned to the government for more cash and deadline extensions after underestimating the scale and complexity of the project, Frost found.

A settlement between the two parties was reached after the contract was terminated in March 2015.

The problems forced the Victorian government to introduce changes to the fines reform bill in February to delay its start date until December 30 next year to accommodate the bungled IT replacement.

Shadow technology minister Gordon Rich-Phillips last week said the opposition would not oppose the requested extension.

"We believe the implementation of an ICT system is quite critical to the new fines regime working properly, being able to consolidate the fines of individuals in one place so that they can understand what their total liability is, indeed so that Fines Victoria can manage that liability as well," Rich-Phillips told parliament last week.

"Having that ICT system in place and operating properly is critical to the successful operation of the new legislation."

The government's proposed delay also garnered support from the Greens and the Australian Sex Party. Both agreed it was "necessary" to push back the start date of the legislation to develop the platform.

Training minister Steve Herbert admitted the project had been difficult.

"No-one likes to defer the commencement of an important piece of legislation such as this," he told parliament.

"However, it has become clear that the implementation of the new fines recovery model in fact requires the support of a new ICT system.

"The deferred date will allow for a new system to be procured and implemented with a commencement date of 31 December 2017."

The state government revealed it would spend almost $40 million on a new fines management platform over the next few years as part of its budget earlier this month.

Just over $15 million will be spent in 2016-17, and $22.9 million will take the department through to when the project is scheduled for completion at the end of 2017.

The government is now in the final stages of selecting a customised off-the-shelf infringement management system after turning away from its former bespoke approach. 

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