Ancient parliamentary car service crumbles

International guests at RISCC

The 20 year-old system that supports the parliamentary car service is failing security requirements for official government guests.

Were US President, Barack Obama, to have visited Australia last month, the Federal Government would have been unable to track commonwealth vehicles through the national car dispatch system, according to the Department of Finance and Deregulation.

The department has sought to replace the crumbling Reservation Information System COMCAR (RISCC) facility which provides driver services to the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, Senators and MPs, and the Federal Judiciary.

It is built on a design that “predates the current national security threat environment,” according to finance department documents.

“Current threats indicate a requirement for enhanced levels of vehicle and VIP tracking which the current system cannot provide,” the documents read.

The archaic system is rife with problems, including availability, component failure, and obsolete technical support. Nor can it integrate GPS vehicle tracking.

Department documents admit the problems are further compounded by a spike in client demand for the service. A rising number of community cabinet meetings, parliamentary sitting days and visits from Official Guests of Government have increased peak loads and are straining the system.

“The RISCC was developed at a time when the COMCAR vehicle fleet was considerably larger, and operational costs of labour and fuel less critical,” the department said.

“With COMCAR’s reduced size, any inefficiencies are magnified and translate directly into increased costs.”

A nationwide call centre in the ACT place reservations in the system and a separate dispatch centre organises the schedule. Mobile data terminals in each car can transmit “limited vehicle progress” information to the national office including status updates such as ‘vehicle at client location’, ‘client collected’, and ‘client delivered’, the department said.

It said the back-end database, radio fleet network, and mobile terminals are “unsuitable for re-use”.

Financial data from RISCC is fed into SAP systems.

Workshops conducted in 2008 found that a replacement system must have an integrated complaints handing service, ensure 98 per cent of cars arrive on time, be Internet Protocol version 6 compliant, and meet government security requirements for the storage of client-related information.

A replacement system should log individual travel details, enable financial auditing, and have flexible reporting functions.

The finance department will hold a briefing session on the COMCAR operating environment, current system and network architecture on 23 April 2010.

Expressions of interest close 13 May.

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