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Customs system delay to cost $43m

The Australian Customs Service’s (ACS) delayed Integrated Cargo System (ICS) has cost Aus$43m (£18m) in emergency funding, a hearing has revealed.

Customs chief executive officer Lionel Woodward, chief information officer Murray Harrison and national director of business systems Jenny Peachey said that despite the ICS failure, the system must and will come right - at some stage in the future.

Woodward told the hearing he estimated "large slabs" of the $43m emergency funding given to customs would be eaten up by existing efforts to shift workable ICS code to industry.

Woodward admitted there had been "a number of pressures in a number of areas in relation to the build of the integrated computer system", along with the "customs connect facility (CCF), the connection facility that will enable outside connection using either EDI or interactive methods" to connect to the customs declarations system.

Woodward said the final amount of the shortfall was not yet known.

According to interim figures total pressures amounted to a spend of $35m for ICS code cutting, another $20m for connectivity courtesy of the CCF and, while the CMR project continues, the need to maintain the old Unisys mainframe costing $1.25m a month - or $15m for the full year.

"The costs of the ICS and CCF are a significant contribution to our being over-extended," and that the $43m figure was not so much "an over-run, but an [interim] cash injection," he said.

The committee heard legislation has already been passed to allow Customs to pass on the cost of ICS to industry users in the form of an import declaration processing charge.

ICS chief Jenny Peachey told the hearing that a major contract variation between the IT suppliers hired to develop ICS for Customs had cost the project around $15.4m, especially as the project was "completing".

Peachey said the last stage of ICS development had experienced a slippage of 19 days, adding that for the final part, all the code is cut now for the ICS development. It’s in product test that final part - nominating the end of April or early May for the roll-out.

The May code release date is at variance with earlier statements from customs that code cutting would not be rushed to meet over-ambitious deadlines.

Julian Bajkowski writes for Computerworld


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