problems with canadian government computer-y2kgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Tuesday, April 13, 1999
Computer system's glitches have cost Immigration millions Department's corrupted data render it unable to collect overdue loans
Jim Bronskill Southam News
OTTAWA - A bug-riddled computer system from the 1970s has severely hampered the Immigration Department's ability to collect millions of dollars in overdue loans.
A newly released federal audit says the outdated technology has churned out incorrect account balances, mangled vital data, and created processing delays of several months.
The auditors recommend the department replace the Immigration Program Accounts Receivable system, known as IPAR, because trying to fix the fragile setup might only make things worse.
"Our overall assessment is that the viability of IPAR in both the medium and long-term is a high risk to the department," says the audit, obtained under the Access to Information Act.
Lorna Tessier, Immigration spokeswoman, said planning for a new system is underway and will become a priority once the Year 2000 computer bug -- a programming glitch confronting nearly all federal systems -- is under control. "Basically, the bottom line on this is, replace the old system, and that's what they're doing."
The IPAR mainframe system was developed almost 20 years ago to administer loans to immigrants for transportation to Canada. In 1994, the Immigration Department assumed responsibility for IPAR from Human Resources Development and added several new functions.
The system's COBOL code, the common data-processing language of the 1970s, has been altered so many times over the years that today, IPAR's programs are not "fully understood," says the federal review, completed last November by Consulting and Audit Canada."The past few years have been challenging for its users and for system maintenance personnel."
The IPAR system contains information on 35,000 loan accounts totalling about $60-million.
Problems with the computer system have slowed the department's efforts to turn delinquent accounts over to private collection agencies.
The selection of delinquent accounts used to be run annually but, because IPAR data "is so chronically out of date," the transfer of such accounts to collection agencies hadn't been done since June 1995, says the audit.
As a result, lapsed accounts represented $28-million, or 48% of the total value of loans, by 1997-98 -- up from 32% in 1992-93.
The need to check the completeness and accuracy of calculations has resulted in chronically late monthly statements for clients.
From February through December, 1997, account statements were delayed anywhere from one to three months.
Statements for one type of loan were not mailed for five months, between December, 1996, and April, 1997.
Staff were busy trying to catch errors involving dates, telephone numbers, balances owing, interest accrued and repayment schedules.
The various problems have resulted in outdated balances, meaning some clients are listed as delinquent because payments aren't processed on time.
Interest is then added to account balances, even in cases where people have sent in advance payments in the form of post-dated cheques.
It can take up to six months to refund clients.
The problems have forced collection officers to spend about 40% of their time explaining to clients why statements are late or incorrect, says the audit.
-- blambie (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 13, 1999
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-- Mr. Kennedy (email@example.com), April 13, 1999.
Here ya go...
-- Scott Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 13, 1999.