DHS gets auditor’s tick for myGov

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Good implementation despite user complaints.

Australia’s national auditor has given the stamp of approval to the Department of Human Services’ implementation of the myGov online service portal, despite a handful of smaller criticisms.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has been reviewing the platform for the last year, looking into how well it was delivered and how it has performed.

The platform currently has 9.5 million users – largely thanks to a requirement that taxpayers use the platform for online tax return lodgment since 2014 – but has received complaints about its reliability and usability.

Since last year the DHS – with help from the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) – has been on a concerted campaign to address some of these problems.

The DTA was made responsible for the platform’s service strategy, policy, and user experience in mid-2016, while DHS continues to handle operations.

In a report likely to surprise government watchers used to negative audit findings on big-budget government IT projects, the ANAO today said DHS’ implementation of myGov had been “largely effective”.

It said the project had clearly defined roles and responsibilities from the outset; consistent reporting on status, risks, issues, and performance; and a solid framework for stakeholder engagement.

The number of current users registered to the platform is nearly double the 5.1 million forecast by the business case, the ANAO noted, and strategic and operational governance arrangements had on the whole been fit for purpose.

The audit office said the high-availability hosting infrastructure introduced in late 2015 following performance issues with myGov’s first two peak tax periods had meant a 99.5 percent uptime monthly performance target had been “consistently met”. 

The platform also contained “suitable” security and privacy measures to protect the sensitive user data stored within.

“The myGov platform has provided a basis for improved service delivery, including a reduction in the time spent by individuals interacting with government,” the ANAO wrote.

“This benefit accrues where individuals use the myGov functionalities to receive correspondence or update their details, and in particular, where individuals link their account to at least two member services.” 

DHS was given a total of $67.5 million over four years by the government for the project.

It ended up costing $86.7 million, the remaining $19.2 million of which was funded from within a DHS IT contingency fund.

Not so good

But the actual savings reaped from the platform can’t be measured because the department didn’t develop any performance metrics in its business case, the auditors reported.

While DHS estimates the myGov inbox feature had saved government $109.2 million, the auditor said that figure is likely “overstated” given there were already email services from the likes of the ATO available.

The DTA needs to create a performance framework that includes KPIs to track how well myGov is delivering on its aims, the auditor said. 

Criticism was also reserved for the handling of feedback: the ANAO said while some reported faults have been corrected and functionality enhanced, not all were delivered in a timely manner.

For example, the department was aware of authentication issues that appeared in 2014, but didn’t implement a fix until June 2016 despite listing it as a top priority, the auditor said.

DHS told the ANAO it had needed to obtain more funding from the government to fix the problem.

The DTA is currently working through a backlog of myGov fixes and improvements, the office noted.

The top three user complaints with the platform include setting up an account or linking to a service, an unfriendly user experience, and difficulties logging in.

The ANAO also noted that the effectiveness of the platform as a whole-of-government capability was being hampered by a lack of take-up within the public service.

There are currently ten government services available through myGov; it is not mandatory for agencies to participate. Only three of those participating use all of myGov’s functionality.

The audit office recommended that the DTA embark on a targeted campaign to get government agencies who provide services to the public on board the platform, and that DHS ensure it is making it as easy as possible for other agencies to interface in.

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