Infosys cops further public hit over Centrelink engine rejection

10 September 2023 3 min. read
More news on

Overshadowed by the PwC government tax scandal, fellow consultancy Infosys is facing a public grilling of its own over a ditched Centrelink calculator said to be far slower than the existing system.

Multinational IT services and consulting firm Infosys has taken another hit in Australia, with the scrapped welfare calculator it built for Centrelink described in a parliamentary audit committee hearing as taking minutes to do what the existing system did in seconds. The public swipe follows last month’s revelations the firm had met with former services minister Stuart Robert on almost a dozen occasions prior to being handed the $191 million contract.

First awarded in late 2019, the automated entitlements calculation engine (ECE) was torpedoed ‘as not fit for purpose’ by the current federal government in July, after having processed just 784 claims for a single aged care payment type during a shadow trial period.

Infosys cops further public hit over Centrelink engine rejection

Now, further details have been released by Services Australia executives as to how sluggish and incompatible with other systems the engine proved to be – although it was at least accurate.

“The ISIS system at the moment does its calculations within two seconds,” Services Australia’s chief information and digital officer Charles McHardie told the hearing, adding that Centrelink handled roughly half a billion dollars in daily payments. “So that’s obviously a big productivity issue for us. We can’t have a system where a claims officer is sitting there waiting for minutes for an assessment to come back, and that was pretty much where we were.”

He continued; “Infosys thought they had a credible solution, which is if they could speed up the process by (extracting, understanding and transpiling) the rules it would’ve been fine, but it didn’t perform. So what happened during the life of the program is Infosys had a pivot and took a ‘top down’ approach, pulled out the lines of legislation around aged pensions and used a coder army, pretty much, to write the rules.” On interoperability; “We had a lot of defects and problems.”

The additional hit to the local reputation of Infosys – the second largest of India’s IT consulting and services giants on revenue after TCS – follows on from and forms part of the Stuart Robert lobbying scandal, which has been largely overshadowed by PwC’s widely-publicised government tax policy confidentiality breach. Still, the firm remains subject to growing government and public impatience over wasted consultancy spend and any hint of impropriety.

The Robert’ controversy and hearings revolve around Infosys’s engagement of shady lobbying outfit Synergy 360 (not to be confused with fellow Canberra-based consultancy Synergy Group), and Synergy’s links to the then assistant treasurer. Infosys paid $16 million to 360, owned by Robert’s “close friend” David Milo, with the minister then alleged to have intervened on Infosys’ behalf, with further insider accusations of plans for back-channel payments.

Despite recent revelations the firm’s senior leaders then met with Robert on eleven occasions leading up to its lucrative Centrelink gig (beating out the likes of Accenture and IBM), Infosys has stridently denied any form of wrongdoing, as has Robert. In terms of the botched welfare calculator, the firm told Guardian that it stood by its work for the “government of Australia” and was “committed to the highest level of compliance, integrity and ethical business practices.”