Ramez Katf, chief information officer at the ATO, writes to tax practitioners in relation to last week’s system outrage outage. ATO comments on the latest system outage

“The ATO clearly understands the impacts we have had on you and your businesses, so it is with great disappointment that I must now write to you and explain a second systems outage. You are entitled to expect better consistency and reliability from our services and I am committed to continuing to update you,” Katf says.

“Since the December outage, ATO and HPE (Hewlett Packard) worldwide have heightened monitoring and have conducted maintenance on the affected hardware to increase its stability and reliability. We had also put a plan in place to transfer all of our data to a completely new piece of equipment. However on 1 February, during the maintenance activity to stabilise the network, an error occurred.

“I have again asked HPE for an explanation and their assurance that the system is now stable and will function as it should. HPE have committed to continue to provide their global expertise to deliver.

“We have plans in place to replace the hardware and we are reviewing those plans to expedite the replacement as quickly as possible.   We also have plans to continue to stabilise the existing hardware so that there is no recurrence of what we have experienced in December and February.

“The new hardware has arrived and HPE engineers are preparing it for use,” he says, adding: “To avoid any further inconvenience to you, we will focus on using the existing schedule of maintenance to achieve the work we need to complete.

We will advise you as soon as we confirm the commissioning of the new hardware.

“In parallel, since December, my team and I have been working on mitigation strategies to shore up our systems so that Portals and other electronic services continue to operate with stability and reliability. These plans include transitioning services to our other data centre as well as adding new server capacity.

“I apologise again for the serious impacts to your businesses and your services. We are committed to fixing this situation and providing services that are available, reliable and resilient.”

The Commissioner speaks
On top of the CIO’s assurances, the Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan also felt compelled to make a statement. He says: “Claims made in today’s (February 8) media that Tax Time 2017 is under threat due to our recent system outages are completely without foundation.

“We are absolutely confident that taxpayers will be able to lodge their returns and receive refunds on time from 1 July,” Jordan says. “It is disappointing that some people are trying to create unnecessary mischief during what has already been a challenging and testing time for the community and the ATO.

“This is very unfortunate as it undermines the commitment and good work that our people have undertaken to return ATO services to normal operation and bring them back online as quickly and reliably as possible.

“Initial indications are there has been a failure by Hewlett Packard (HPE) to provide contracted services in a reliable way and ensure stability of our systems. The cause of the failures will be informed by the review led by PwC that I commissioned after the first outage in December 2016. As I said at that time, I want to know what happened in forensic detail so that we can assure the community they will not face this kind of disruption in their dealings with us, that businesses who rely on our services can go about running their business without interruption.

“I can assure the community that we are taking this seriously and it has the highest priority.   I have already met a number of times with the most senior HPE representatives in the region and corresponded with their CEO to ensure they are aware of the disruption and damage this kind of event causes and remind them of their contractual arrangements.

“Our immediate priority is to provide stable services to the community, business, our key stakeholders and government.

“Our ATO technicians are working with HPE’s global team of experts to fully replace the affected hardware. This ongoing work will ensure we can meet the deliverables for the Government’s legislative agenda and our priority services that support the community’s engagement with the tax and super systems.

“We are committed to offering contemporary and reliable services to the community. The development and release of many new service offerings under our Reinvention program have not contributed to these system outages. Initial indications are that the outages have been caused by faulty hardware.

“I commit to you we will get to the bottom of this, fix it for the longer term and maintain contemporary and reliable services to the community,” Jordan says.

 

Tax Wrap podcast episode 109
ATO systems outage – again

The team share coping strategies on the latest ATO systems outrage outage,
and what is being done to fix the mess.