Australian Tax Office has 'worst unplanned system outage in recent memory’

The agency is hiring an independent expert to investigate

By Byron Connolly
Dec. 19, 2016


The Australian Tax Office will set up an independent review to determine why the agency suffered what commissioner of taxation, Chris Jordan, has described as its ‘worst unplanned system outage in recent memory.’

Jordan said in a statement today that the loss of online services on Monday was an “extremely unusual and unfortunate event with the outage caused by a significant and unprecedented failure of storage hardware.”

The storage hardware was upgraded in November last year by Hewlett Packard Enterprise after a lengthy and thorough selection process. It was seen to be ‘state-of-the-art’ and is the same used by other clients of the vendor in Australia and worldwide, said Jordan.

“What compounded the problem beyond the initial failure was the subsequent failure of our back-up arrangements to work as planned. The failure of our back-up arrangements meant that restoration and resumption of data and services has been very complex and time consuming,” Jordan said.

Jordan was adamant that there had been no loss or compromise of data at the agency.

“The issues we have experienced this week do not relate to our overall IT capability or skills,” he said.

Jordan said ATO and HPE staff have worked around the clock over the past week to bring systems back online progressively.

“Our website, the Tax Agent Portal, BAS Portals and Business Portals are up and running and we are seeing continued improvements in their functionality. We are continuing to work on the stabilisation of ATO Online services,” he said.

An independent expert will now determine the nature of the failures, their root causes, the adequacy of backups and contingency arrangements and the likelihood of recurrence, Jordan said.

“The review will also consider our immediate response to the failure, how we managed business resumption processes and the effectiveness of our communication with the community,” he said.

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