The federal government's much vaunted $1 billion welfare super-computer is at least six years away from being operational.
The Human Services Minister says users of the Commonwealth's web portals should prepare for "clunkiness" for some time to come, while Labor says the government is in denial about its customer service issues.
The Coalition has long answered criticism of welfare agency Centrelink's customer service failings by saying $1 billion is being spent on the Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation (WPIT) project saying the massive IT job would solve may of Centrelink's problems.
But answers to questions by a Senate committee show that only $60 million has been allocated to WPIT so far and despite having more than 100 public servants and 80 private sector contractors working full time on the project, it will be at least six years before it starts working.
The myGov portal was launched in 2013 and is used by several million Australians as a portal to access their Centrelink, Medicare, Child Support, Department of Veteran Affairs, e-health, and DisabilityCare accounts.
But serious problems have emerged with the security and operability of the myGov, with users complaining of being locked out of their accounts, outages and other glitches.
Human Services Minister Stuart Robert has come to the defence of myGov, telling ABC radio in Sydney that Australia was a world leader in providing online government services and that critics were "wrong" and "badly misinformed"
Does myGov need a reboot? Tell us firstname.lastname@example.org
But Labor's Human Services spokesman Doug Cameron said that service levels from Centrelink, including its online performance, were unacceptably bad.
"The evidence is damning and overwhelming – Centrelink service standards are dropping," said Senator Cameron.
"The number of calls answered by Centrelink, initially by its Interactive Voice Response system, has dropped by 3 million in one year.
"The percentage of calls answered dropped by 11.1 per cent.
"Centrelink is now only answering 64.3 per cent of calls from customers, down from 75.43 per cent in 2013-14.
"We know that dealing with Centrelink and DHS is becoming more, not less, difficult day to day.
"The dread of having to try to get them on the phone when you have a problem is palpable.
"Complaints are up 18.8 per cent on last year, and customer satisfaction is down by 8 per cent."
The minister did not comment on Centrelink specifically, but said the myGov portal was doing a reasonable job given the volume of traffic it was expected to manage.
"There are some challenges, but thirteen and a half thousand Australians register every day,"
"On the busiest day 620,000 people logged into myGov and on an average day, it's something like a third of a million, so this is a very heavy use site, its one of the most automated systems in the world,
"But I concede there are a range of issues, it gets better every day and we've still got a fair way to go."
Mr Robert dismissed reports that myGov was to be handed over to the government's new Digital Transformation Office as "out of touch with reality", and said the WPIT project would replace over 70 obsolete "back-end systems".
"This is a huge program, I'm talking a billion, replacing the entire back-end computing which will start to address all of these legacy issues," the minister said.
"So we're going to have some clunkiness for a while but it gets better every day."