$74 million PEMS project to drag on for another two years

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Parliament’s expense software upgrade will need another two years to deliver core functionalities and enhancements, as outside auditors encounter the project’s complexities that have resulted in cost blowouts and missed deadlines.

Professional services firm EY was called in to examine the Parliamentary Expense Management System (PEMS) after a damning report from the national audit office last year exposed how the software suffered from poor planning and user testing.

With $74 million already spent on the SAP-based PEMS, the project remains unfinished and key functions are yet to be fully scoped.

Parliament House
PEMS persists: Another 12 months are needed to deliver core functionality to Parliament’s expense management software.

Department of Finance officials on Wednesday said there was work that still needed to be done on core PEMS functions like travel reporting, debts and invoicing, human resources, and user functions.

The department said it aimed to have the functions available within 12 months and would need a further year to deliver other enhancements.

A series of technical challenges encountered by the project to date have been put down to some of the unique aspects of managing the expenses and human resourcing for parliament and members’ staff.

But a review of the project by the national audit office published earlier this year said PEMs had also suffered from a lack of scoping, user planning and testing, as well as governance gaps. These issues stretched back to the start of the project in 2018 when the original budget was $38 million.

A competing software provider has claimed they could provide the functionality at only a fraction of the cost, while the technical issues have led to an embarrassing pause on the public reporting of politicians expense claims.

The public reporting has now started to catch up and is expected to be back to current quarterly reports by August.

Following the critical audit of PEMs, the Department of Finance enlisted EY to conduct a risk audit this year.

But the consultancy had to be granted an extension on the work because of the complexity of the principles-based framework governing parliamentarians’ work expenses.

“There were over… 400 elements that needed to be checked for compliance. So that was really the main reason [for the extension],” Finance first assistant secretary Kylie Bryant told a Senate estimates hearing.

“We have received a draft report, and we expect to finalise that over the coming weeks.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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