The ACT government's trouble-plagued ChooseCBR discount voucher scheme has been forced offline for the next week as allegations have been made around a misuse of vouchers.
An audit will investigate redemption patterns in the scheme, as almost $400,000 worth of vouchers was claimed in the first two days despite the site being down for a large portion of that time.
The audit process forms part of the system's design and has been in place since the overhauled scheme started on Wednesday. As part of that, redemption patterns are monitored.
It was revealed on Friday the ChooseCBR website will be out of action until at least next Friday after it was riddled with technical difficulties.
ACT Business Minister Tara Cheyne said the popularity of the voucher scheme was dramatically underestimated.
However, The Canberra Times is aware of businesses who have queried how so many vouchers were redeemed given the issues with the website prevented many from being able to process vouchers.
While an ACT government spokeswoman acknowledged there had been commentary around misuse of the scheme, she said the government had not received any specific reports it had been exploited and there was no indication of any misuse at this point.
Ms Cheyne said the database behind the ACT government's discount voucher scheme was unable to handle the overwhelming demand, which she said was more than triple what was expected.
During the three-week December trial of the vouchers a daily average of only $30,000 was claimed but in the first two days of the overhauled scheme almost $200,000 was spent each day.
"Perhaps a reasonable estimate given we had doubled the scheme, we'd doubled the voucher amount and we'd double the discounts to 50 per cent perhaps we could have been anticipating about $60,000 being claimed a day," Ms Cheyne said.
It was initially believed the error was due to server capacity and consequently steps were taken to increase that capacity on Wednesday.
But issues persisted on Thursday, which Ms Cheyne said were related to the system's database.
"On Thursday morning everything did seem to be running smoothly but we did identify around about lunch time again, a secondary issue that perhaps had also been emerging on Wednesday when we thought it had just been a load issue," she said.
"This secondary issue is related to the database behind the website and the architecture of how that works.
"The database itself is not being able at this stage to handle that number of transactions occurring."
Ms Cheyne said that $389,000 had been claimed before the website crashed. She said over two days the number of business sign-ups increased by more than 200 and the number of customers grew by almost 20,000.
There were 767 businesses and 77,000 customers signed up to the scheme and about 500 businesses had claimed vouchers before the system was taken down, the Business Minister said.
But ACT opposition business spokeswoman Leanne Castley was skeptical about the amount claimed.
"My question is how on earth has there been that much spent on a scheme that so far the website has been down for most of the time," Ms Castley said.
"I would love to know where the vouchers have been claimed because from all accounts there's been only a handful of shops that have actually been able to make those vouchers work."
Ms Castley described the scheme as "an absolute debacle".
"It's so disappointing for all of our Canberra businesses there has been so much hype about this scheme," she said.
"They didn't get it right the first time, they haven't got it right the second time."
The website's failure is the latest is a series of issues for the discount voucher scheme that was trialled in December last year.
During the three-week trial only $310,000 of the $500,000 allocated to the scheme was spent, with businesses and customers alike reporting a lack of awareness of the scheme.
The ACT government overhauled the scheme, by increasing the discount amounts and it also embarked on an extensive marketing campaign to increase knowledge of the scheme.
There has been $2 million allocated to this round of the scheme. It will run until the full amount has been spent.
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