By Leon Spencer
Jan. 25, 2017
Answers to lingering questions over how the Australian Taxation Office's (ATO) systems went down for days following the failure of storage infrastructure upgraded in 2015 by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) are set to be revealed in March.
To help it get to the bottom of the "unprecedented" hardware failure, the government has appointed professional services industry heavyweight, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), to conduct an independent review of the incident.
"The review will help us to fully understand what happened and why, and what needs to be done to ensure we are not exposed to this type of incident in future. The PwC review is due to be finalised in March," the ATO said in a statement on January 24.
"We are also conducting our own internal review which will focus on our key stakeholders, including tax professionals and software developers," it said.
The announcement comes a month after the agency promised it would commission a full investigation into the multi-day outage and technical issues behind it.
"The review will be conducted by an independent expert who will determine the nature of the failure(s) and their root cause(s), the adequacy of back-up and contingency arrangements, and the likelihood of recurrence," Australia's Commissioner of Taxation, Chris Jordan, said in December last year.
According to the ATO, PwC was appointed to carry out the task of investigating the massive outage due to its "specific expertise" with the IT storage infrastructure that lies at the heart of the incident.
The ATO's internal review into the system issues and the external review set to be undertaken by PwC follow similar moves by the ATO's technology partner, HPE, to investigate the matter.
In late December last year, the technology company confirmed it had launched an internal investigation into the cause of the hardware failure that led to the outage of the ATO's systems.
"In addition to the ATO's independent review, HPE has initiated its own root cause analysis investigation to determine why storage hardware went offline, preceding a series of events that led to the broader system outage experienced by the ATO," an HPE representative told ARN at the time.
Despite the considerable amount of resources the ATO plunged into bringing systems back online following the outage, the agency was still in the process of restoring some of its digital services weeks after the initial incident took place.
On January 10, the agency said it would take its online services offline to conduct critical system maintenance over the weekend of January 14 and 15, as it continued to restore systems to full functionality. This followed similar maintenance outages the previous weekend, and during the Christmas holiday period.