Post office IT `risky` PDF Print E-mail
The Post Office`s systems will improve in time for the changes to the Post Bank, it says.

Despite significant investments in the past few years, IT is still one of the biggest risks at the South African Post Office (SAPO).

SAPO has spent R275 million in the 2008/9 financial year for software and the upgrading of IT infrastructure. An additional R200 million was spent in the previous financial year, while spending for the 2009/10 financial year is expected to rise.

Despite this, IT systems are still one of the biggest risks in the organisation. Most recently, the Post Office`s track and trace system was offline for several days, following technical problems.

“Despite significant investment in IT infrastructure in the last financial year, this area of development remains a significant source of risk. In order for us [SAPO] to both maintain and grow services, significant investments in network and bandwidth capacity expansion, skills and staff are needed in the next three years,” says SAPO.

Following the approval of the draft Post Bank Bill by Cabinet earlier this week, and recent issues experienced with the agency`s IT systems, SAPO says its IT infrastructure still needs to improve.

The Bill would allow the Post Bank to establish itself as a fully-fledged bank and transform it into a separate company to better position it in the country`s financial sector. The process of corporatisation would allow it to obtain a banking licence and introduce a wider range of banking and financial service products.

“The investments we have made in systems and technology have improved our efficiency and allowed us to keep our costs low – but these systems and processes will have to be accelerated, before we conclude the corporatisation process in 2010,” says SAPO.

Critical concerns

SAPO maintains that the proper management of the bank is critical, particularly with the rise of international money laundering and other fraudulent crime activities.

Some R15 million has been spent on an anti-money laundering and fraud detection system for the Post Bank. Another R30 million has been spent on access and surveillance systems, and R9 million will be spent per year on vehicle tracking systems for the post office.

While vital technology projects have been introduced – such as the network upgrade, enterprise architecture and disaster recovery projects – some concerns still remain. Major risks include crime, fraud and skills retention, and these have to be resolved before it can roll out fully-fledged banking services.

“Skills retention is a major concern, and attracting and retaining the services of suitably qualified and experienced IT professionals is still a challenge. A three-year human capital transformation programme has been introduced, which will include specialised training and coaching,`` says SAPO.

“We have taken a strategic decision to embrace the advance of technology rather than seeking to resist it, by using it as a tool for reducing costs and extending further services to our customers,” it adds.

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