Skills drought shifts Tax project to Melbourne

A drought of IT skills in the nation's capital has seen the Australian Tax Office (ATO) forced to shift a showcase software development project from Canberra to Melbourne because the agency is unable to fill 100 new positions required to complete the project on time in the nation's capital.

Known as an ATO Centre of Excellence, the new Siebel-based project forms the core development and testing phase of the ATO's new $10 million contact centre and case management software upgrade.

As part of its $350 million Change Program, ATO is currently in the process of upgrading a range of siloed contact centre (Release 1) and case management (Release 2) applications to a customized version of Siebel (7) to afford users a single view of ATO clients.

Yet even with generous employment terms and conditions - backed by the unparalleled job security only the public service can offer its employees - the ATO has not been able to recruit developers to work in the Canberra positions.

One example of conditions not available in the private sector includes the ability of government employees to change jobs within the public service and retain and transfer their accrued leave and entitlements to their new positions.

Taxation CIO Bill Gibson told Computerworld the lack of available IT talent in Canberra has stemmed from a combination of a relatively small labour pool and a number of other departments also competing for the same IT talent.

"In the last three months we were unable to attract suitably qualified [candidates]. We are having great difficulty and we are not alone. Other departments are finding it equally difficult to recruit. There is a lot of demand in Canberra.

"A lot of agencies have initiatives that are under way. We decided that Melbourne will provide us with a better opportunity to recruit experienced people to help us with [the new project]," Gibson said, adding some IT staff within Tax had also chosen to move to "metropolitan areas other than Canberra".

However, Gibson stressed the move south will not cost jobs from Tax's existing Siebel support centre in Canberra.

"We are not turning Canberra off as a point of Siebel presence. Our ongoing production support will remain in Canberra .We have no plans to reduce staff levels in Canberra as a result of this decision.

"The Melbourne site will primarily be a development site to cater for peaks in development or major new enhancements," Gibson said. Computerworld is awaiting comment from Siebel.

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