Integration hampers IFMS

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Integrating the software programs selected to drive the various modules of government's Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS) has been problematic, the State IT Agency (SITA) admits.

Speculated initially to be worth about R4 billion, IFMS is a joint project of National Treasury, the Department of Public Service and Administration and SITA. It now includes the Department of Defence and the South African Police Service as observers.

IFMS intends to consolidate and “renew” government's back-office applications. The scope of the IFMS project covers financial management, human resource management, supply chain management and business intelligence across both national and provincial departments.

The agency's CTO, Gerald O' Sullivan, says the team encountered difficulties early on in trying to get the Human Resource Management Module, driven by SAP's Human Capital Management System, to speak to the Procurement Management Module, based in Oracle's eBusiness Suite.

“Integrating various off-the-shelf and bespoke products - which amounted to a mix of proprietary and open source software programmes - was quite a hurdle that required we go back to the drawing board in terms of system design.

“However, the new solution - which is highly modular and uses messaging and Web services to deliver integration - is a better fit for government's requirements,” explains O' Sullivan.

Although the system redesign set back the development team, O' Sullivan is confident IFMS will soon be back on track.

Bobby Maake, National Treasury's chief director of financial systems, agrees, pointing out that in-field testing is already taking place of the asset management, procurement management and human resource management modules.

“We are not that far behind from where we wanted to be. In the next financial year, we will see communications to the provinces and local municipalities increase as we prepare for roll-out,” he says.

Neither O' Sullivan nor Maake will say whether these delays have added to the cost of IFMS. Additionally, the overall cost of IFMS is not up for discussion.

Says Maake: “There has never been a budget for IFMS. Cabinet's directive was to deliver a system that did not cost more to run than the legacy systems were costing at that time. We will achieve this cost point.”

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