A damning report has exposed the bungled rollout of Fines Victoria's $125 million IT system that led to backlogs and processing errors.
The Victorian Auditor-General's Office found the Victorian Infringements Enforcement Warrant (VIEW) system was estimated to be only five per cent functional when it launched in December 2017.
The Fines Victoria project, under the management of the Department of Justice and Community Safety, was expected to deliver 90 per cent functionality straight away but had only hit 26 per cent by March 2019.
"This had significant, negative implications for Fines Victoria's ability to process and enforce infringements and meet its legislative requirements," says the VAGO report, which was tabled in Victorian parliament on Wednesday.
"To date, VIEW is still incomplete."
It meant DJCS staff spent months using costly and time-consuming manual workarounds for tasks including payment receipts, managing court fines, driver, vehicle and other sanctions, and various warrants.
The VAGO says that "significantly increased" processing backlogs, impaired courts system integrity, and made it impossible for the Sheriff's Office to enforce warrants for outstanding debts.
It also contributed to the business services provider making processing errors, which led to fines being handled incorrectly and significant media scrutiny.
The VAGO highlighted how VIEW's lack of functionality had affected the department's ability to record fines income accurately.
New reporting functionality implemented in 2019/20 showed the DJCS understated the state's fine revenue by $91.3 million in 2017/18 and overstated it by $176.5 million in 2018/19.
Despite the system's flaws, the audit revealed the department paid the vendor 83 per cent of the initial $46 million project cost by the launch date.
"This left DJCS with little leverage over the vendor," the report says.
The DJCS ultimately decided in October 2019 it would not deliver VIEW in its originally intended form while continuing to pour at least an extra $79 million into the project.
The VAGO labels the DJCS's project governance "ineffective", with its oversight and reporting "not commensurate with the project's importance and challenging nature".
It also notes the department's failure to learn from its earlier attempt to implement a new IT solution for fines management.
The DJCS opted for a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) system as staff felt it would avoid the complexity of its previously failed customised IT solution and fit a prescribed timeline for fines reform.
"This was unrealistic because COTS solutions are designed and intended for delivering mass, simple transactions," the VAGO says.
The audit questioned why three project team members were sent to the United States and United Kingdom to test the COTS products when "simple inquiries" could have made from Melbourne.
"Doing so would have revealed that the successful vendor's product had never been tested at the scale and complexity required to manage fines in Victoria," the VAGO says.
"It had only been applied in local councils in London for traffic and parking fines and in local libraries for transactions in the hundreds of thousands each year.
"This was clearly not comparable to the roughly six million often complex fines transactions Victoria undertakes yearly."
Australian Associated Press