Services Australia has scored in excess of half a billion dollars in the federal budget to progress the final stage of its massive Centrelink payments system overhaul.
Budget papers reveal $539.6 million over four years, including $166.9 million in capital, for tranche four of the welfare payment infrastructure transformation (WPIT) program.
It is the largest chunk of funding to be handed to Services Australia for the seven-year project since it began in 2015, and brings the total funding allocation to more than $1.1 billion.
Tranche four, which has been combined with tranche five, will see Services Australia bring improvements from earlier tranches to disability, carers and families payments as well as the age pension by July 2022.
It will also involve building a new entitlements calculation engine, which is based on Pegasystems software, and decommissioning the legacy income security integrated system (ISIS).
“Tranche four will improve the delivery of payments, including to older Australians and families by implementing automated claim, assessment and payment processes,” budget papers state.
The last significant WPIT funding injection was in 2018, when the then Department of Human Services received $316.2 million over four years for tranche three.
Tranche two - which delivered technical changes to the Centrelink backend - received $313.5 million in 2016, while an initial $60.5 million went towards the design and procurement phase.
But the term of the funding for tranche four raises further questions about whether the project will be completed by July 2022, with at least $102.3 million falling in 2022-23 and 2023-24.
Last month, an audit found that although the program is on track, delays to the decommissioning of ISIS have “put at risk one of the original objects of the WPIT program and negated realisation of all the expected benefits”.
It also found that only around 52 percent of ISIS functionality will have transitioned by the end of the program in 2022, with “almost half of the decommissioning … not expected to be completed by the end of the program”.
Budget documents also reveal the government expects to “achieve savings of $317.4 million over four years from 2020-21” as a result of the tranche four improvements.
Elsewhere in the Social Services portfolio, the budget provides $22.5 million over the next two years to “sustain the current myGov system and the enhanced myGov Beta”.
It builds on the government's additioned $256.6 million committment towards the Govpass digital identity system as part of the digital business plan last week.
“This funding will allow myGov to continue to support over 18 million accounts and connect the public to the services of 13 government agencies,” budget papers state.
myGov has already undergone a massive uplift this year to meet the needs of the millions of newly unemployed Australians in the wake of COVID-19.
Earlier this year, Services Australia raised the number of concurrent users that could use the online government services platform at one time to 300,000.
This is a significant improvement on the 6000 concurrent users the platform could support prior to the coronavirus lockdown measures in March.
However the current myGov platform is expected to slowly make way for the Facebook-inspired myGov Beta platform over the coming years.
The Digital Transformation Agency launched a working beta of myGov Beta - which is underpinned by the government digital service platform (GOVDXP) - late last month.