IRD under fire

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 10:06 08/05/2012

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Inland Revenue is under the gun after its website crashed for several hours yesterday, frustrating companies rushing to meet a deadline to file gst returns.

Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said the outage was caused by ''human error'' but Labour counterpart David Clark said it was indicative of a ticking time bomb under the department.

Yesterday was the deadline for almost all businesses to file their gst returns and Dunne said a computer setting had not been changed to accommodate the large number of businesses that had left it until the last day.

''It is certainly an unfortunate occurrence, which I do not want to see repeated,'' he said. ''I have been assured by officials that internal processes are being reviewed and steps have already been taken to prevent it occurring again.''

Inland Revenue apologised for the outage, which at one stage caused call waiting times to its contact centre to blow out to 90 minutes. It promised that businesses that missed the gst deadline because of the outage would not be punished.

Public Service Association national secretary Brenda Pilott said Inland Revenue was in the middle of an information technology  restructure that was going to lead to redundancies and while it was not clear that contributed to the incident, staff were under enormous stress.

The department had a policy of retaining contractors while laying off full-time staff which meant it could take longer to get on top of crises, she said. ''You lose a lot of capacity and expertise.''

Labour revenue spokesman David Clark said he believed the outage was indicative of deeper problems. ''It is something that is happening increasingly often.''

He was concerned the department was making no progress replacing its First mainframe computer system after it warned earlier this year that the project could cost up to $1.5 billion.

''It is a time bomb. Regardless of what the history is, now is the time that something desperately needs to be done.''

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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