According to the ATO’s annual report, the availability of its digital systems for 2018–19 was 99.5 per cent, 0.1 of a percentage point more than the previous financial year.
Its external availability to clients and partners was 99.3 per cent, while its internal systems used by staff achieved a 99.8 per cent result.
The last major ATO outage in 2018–19 happened in early June this year, with its portals, online service for agents, PLS service and superannuation services all going down.
The ATO’s methodology measures between the planned availability with the actual availability of a system for users, and does not consider planned maintenance as system unavailability.
Speaking to Accountants Daily, Institute of Public Accountants general manager of technical policy Tony Greco said that while the ATO has improved the robustness of its digital systems, more can be done to keep its services available all year round.
“Another point of frustration is that the number of maintenance events where they are offline is not counted [in the system availability methodology] and a lot of our members do work on weekends and after hours,” Mr Greco said.
“An expectation is that in this day and age that if you’re forced to go digital then that comes with an obligation to be almost 24/7.
“We have to acknowledge that there is a need for maintenance, and I think the only thing we would say there is that, obviously, they have to keep it to a commercially acceptable amount.”
Mr Greco also suggested looking towards institutions like the banks, who keep their systems running despite undergoing maintenance.
“The banks have got concurrent systems, that’s how they get around it, so availability is 24/7 and they do their testing and maintenance and then just seamlessly bring them back into operation,” Mr Greco said.
“You can go to an ATM 24/7 and you wouldn’t even notice if they’re doing maintenance on another system because it doesn’t affect you.”
Should the ATO’s systems go down again in the near future, Mr Greco believes it needs to compensate practitioners for their economic and non-economic loss.
The government is currently reviewing the Compensation for Defective and Detrimental Administration (CDDA) scheme, with the industry slamming it as “not fit for purpose in the 21st century”.
“We’ve never said that we expect iron-proof systems, but at the same time, we want better compensation for when those major things do happen in the future,” Mr Greco said.
Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.