Irish consulting giant Accenture has reportedly been awarded the lucrative federal government contract to develop a “permissions capability” which will initially handle visa processing.
It comes nearly eight months after the Department of Home Affairs issued a tender for an “integrated, enterprise-scale workflow capability to be used across the Commonwealth”, and four months after the government had planned to enter into a contract.
While Home Affairs said that “no contract has been awarded”, the Australian Financial Review has reported that the joint-bid by Accenture and Pega has been selected, and other bidders have been informed of this.
“The Department will not provide any further comment on speculation,” a Home Affairs spokesperson told InnovationAus.
It’s the third time in recent years that the federal government has attempted to overhaul Australia’s legacy visa processing tech systems, after a botched attempt early last year cost nearly $100 million before a provider was even selected.
The platform will be launched initially to handle digital incoming passenger declarations and digital visa processing capabilities, including health data of travellers coming to Australia such as their COVID-19 vaccination status.
But the platform will eventually be reused across the Commonwealth for various government services such as permits, accreditation, licences and registration.
The initial Accenture and Pega contract is understood to be worth $60 million.
The Department’s procurement process for the permissions capability is the effectiveness and economy of this listed as a potential audit for 2021-22.
In March last year the government announced it had scrapped plans to bring in a private provider to develop a Global Digital Platform to replace the existing visa processing system. This came after significant criticism from a range of sources over the perceived privatisation of the core government function.
The Coalition soon revealed plans to go back to the market for the new “permissions capability”, with a tender issued in October and applications closing in mid-December.
The winning bidder will build the base permissions capability which will then be licenced across the Commonwealth.
At a recent Senate Estimates hearing, Home Affairs representatives said that the plan was to buy a private company’s existing technology and then configure it for the specific needs of the Commonwealth.
“It’ll be owned and operated within the Department – we’ll have a licencing agreement in place. The vendor will build it and hand over the relevant IP, and there’ll be ongoing sustainment,” the Home Affairs representative said.
“The provider will come to the Department with a range of capability it already owns, that it has developed over time. We will then work with our people to build our permissions capability. The IP that the company brings to that conversation is and remains theirs, and what is built together remains ours.”
The procurement delays were due to an expansion of the scope to cover COVID-19-related health data in the system, the Department said.
Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo told the Estimates hearing that the Department was “grappling” with this “jigsaw puzzle”.
“The challenge here, and it’ll take the best part of six to 12 months…is how do you securely, proportionately and with privacy ingest health data before travel occurs? It’s quite a complex and technically difficult challenge,” Mr Pezzullo said.
A taskforce had been established within the Department to oversee the procurement process, with members from the Digital Transformation Agency and the Department of Finance.
It’s another significant federal government contract for Accenture, which enjoyed a bumper 2020 despite the ongoing pandemic.
The Irish domiciled firm was recently awarded a further $57 million for its continued work on the My Health Record platform, with the contract now worth a total of just under $630 million over the last decade.
Accenture also won a contract now worth $14 million for work on the ATO’s digital identity scheme, running across the first half of this year. The consulting giant was paid nearly $2.5 million per month for this work.
Accenture is assisting the Commonwealth with COVID-19 vaccine data, and will be paid $15 million for this work.
Last year Accenture won two contracts with the ATO both worth more than $40 million, and received a total of $187.5 million from the tax office in the year.
The value of contracts Accenture had with the federal government last year were worth $786.4 million, a 15 per cent increase from the previous year.
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