Finance NSW bounces its cheque book, disconnects fax

Ceremonial value only. [pic: flickr]


The NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation (DFSI) has officially torn-up its agency cheque book, with Minister Dominic Perrottet telling customers and suppliers alike the organisation will now only make payments via electronic channels.

The clean out of paper-based technologies has also disconnected almost 500 fax lines into the agency over the last year, a move Mr Perrottet says will save around $200,000 by putting an end to “archaic processes” and “tackling inefficient legacy systems.”

The move to dump cheques and faxes effectively sounds the death knell for the vintage technologies in other agencies as Finance, Services and Innovation continues on its mission to spearhead government-wide changes by playing the role of exemplar.

However what’s still unclear whether Finance will continue to accept inbound cheques as a payment option – a method still favoured by a subset of older people who remain uncomfortable dealing with internet and other electronic channels.


Terminal decline

Big revenue agencies, councils and banks have all been quietly trying to eliminate cheques from the payments landscape for years because of the high cost of manual processing, fraud risks and slow turnaround times.

The Australian Payments Clearing Association estimates that the use of cheques has dropped a whopping 71 per cent over the last 10 years as a structural shift to digital channels spreads through the economy.

Banks, which largely bear the costs of cheque processing, are especially keen to get rid of the signed bits of paper. As long ago as 2007 the Reserve Bank of Australia estimated that the average cost of cheques for consumers, merchants and financial institutions was $7.69, making them a financially painful channel for institutions.

Despite the increasing costs of processing, banks remain deeply reticent over killing-off cheques entirely because of the risk of a backlash from key customer segments, including older customers, charities and mothers with school-age children who dispatch payments using under age couriers.

Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet is not so hesitant, saying that cheque issuance has already declined from 15,000 a month to 1000 a month.

“It is 2016, and there is no excuse for government departments being stuck in the past when it comes to basic operations,” Mr Perrottet said. “To better respond to the needs of our citizens, we need to be flexible, agile and put progressive work practices in place.”


Trapped by PDFs

Cheques and fax machines may not be alone on their way to the scrapyard.

Not content with publishing acres of spreadsheets to electrify numbers in Finance, Services and Innovation’s Budget documents, Mr Perrottet has released “a revamped Budget Visualisation Tool (BVT)” that shows the department’s Budget data in vivid blocks of colour that can be sorted, sliced and diced.

If you’ve ever struggled to navigate and harvest data from dense government PDF files, the NSW Finance Minister reckons he shares your pain.

“Trawling through the Budget papers can feel like a bit like reading the phone book – finding the information you want takes time,” Mr Perrottet said.

“With this tool you can easily see how DFSI’s Budget has been allocated with just a few mouse clicks, which means a better understanding of government finances, and a more accountable government.”

“Rather than being trapped in a PDF, the information is also available in an open format for developers to use as they see fit, on,” Mr Perrottet continued, a statement unlikely to amuse Adobe.

The Budget interface breaks down core business expenses and capital expenditure for DFSI agencies, including Office of State Revenue, NSW Fair Trading, Service NSW and Property NSW the agency says.

You can take a look at it here.

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