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GST Network Glitches Courtesy Infosys, Say Government Officials

GST Network Glitches Courtesy Infosys, Say Government Officials
Time taken for IT co to come up with solutions irks govt; Infy rejects contention Infosys, for long the face of India's software sector, finds its management of the GST information technology backbone under scrutiny at the highest levels of the government. It had won the . 1,380-crore deal for developing and ` running GST's backend in 2015.

Three top government functionaries expressed strong disappointment with the company over frequent glitches that have beset the Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN), leading to extension of deadlines for returns several times “It has been a disappointing experience,“ said one of the officials, adding that the software provider is now expected to improve service delivery.Infosys rejected the contention that its work had been regarded as unsatisfactory.

“The information you have received is completely inaccurate,“ the company said in an email to ET.The government on October 30 again deferred filing of GSTR-2 for July to November 30 from October 31 and GSTR-3 for July to December 11 from November 10. GSTR-2 for July was to be originally filed in August, but deadlines have been extended several times. What has irked some sections in the government is the time taken for the company to respond or come up with solutions to problems.

“While the long-term problem we face is inculcating a culture of tax compliance, the short-term problem is on account of Infosys,“ said the official, expressing frustration with the jargon-laden response it usually got

Senior finance ministry officials have been regularly interacting with the company's top brass, both during the tenure of former CEO Vishal Sikka and the new dispensation under non-executive chairman Nandan Nilekani, to help find fixes quickly. Apart from this, there have been instances of offline utilities being introduced only a day ahead of the actual filing date or these not having all the elements needed.

GSTN's functioning was one of the key issues flagged at a September 9 meeting of the GST Council in Hyderabad, leading to the formation of a group of ministers (GoM) under Bihar finance minister Sushil K Modi.

“They (Infosys) should have been more responsive,“ said an official. The government expects things to improve with the high-level GoM having direct oversight of the IT systems. Modi has called a meeting to seek suggestions from stakeholders on how to improve GSTN functioning on November 1in Patna.

WORKING HARD TO RESOLVE GLITCHES'
Infosys said it had been working hard to resolve glitches quickly. “Given the complex nature of the project and rapid change management, there have been several stakeholder concerns that have also been raised,“ Infosys said in its email. “Some of our finest engineers are supporting the GSTN team as they work towards resolving these and serving all stakeholders.“

Several taxpayers including trade bodies have said the system is prone to slowing down to a crawl, generating error messages and crashing.“This has led to restlessness among the businessmen... A small businessman can't spend so much time on filing of returns,“ said a trader.The IT service provider has assured the GoM that it will expand its team to resolve issues with the GSTN but policymakers said they want to see results soon.

Modi said the company had responded to feedback, but added that he can only speak for the period since he became part of the council and the GoM in September.“They have speeded up things... They have deployed additional manpower,“ he told ET. “We must also remember that GST is a big change from earlier tax system of VAT... Besides, the council has also made changes that had to be reflected in the software.“

The company said the GSTN system has performed well.“Infosys is very proud to be associated with the prestigious GST project which is the largest tax project of its kind in the world,“ the company said. “The system has already demonstrated success across several parameters -till date 37 crore invoices have been uploaded on the system while the system is designed to handle 300 to 320 crore invoices every month. Seventy lakh tax payers have successfully migrated to the new system and the country has recorded 25 lakh new registered taxpayers.“

Central and state-level tax regimes have been integrated with all 29 states and seven Union Territories successfully migrating onto this system. In addition, the system is able to manage 100,000 active users and saw peak loads in the last two days of filing returns for July. Half the filings were made in that timeframe and 70% of the collection achieved with just 25% of server utilisation, demonstrating the system's ability to manage scale, Infosys said.

“Any large project of this scale, especially a transformative one like this has to deal with changes in both policy and stakeholder usability,“ the company said.“Some of these modifications have resulted in rapid changes to the system particularly due to its integration with heterogeneous IT ecosystems including GST Suvidha Providers, Aadhaar, CBEC and Model 1 states.“

The Economic Times, New Delhi, Ist November 2017

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