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This chapter provides a summary of what the project sets out to achieve and what the project is about.
The chapter is organised as follows: section 1.1 provides a general background of the dissertation theme; section 1.2 presents the project scope; section 1.3 defines the key business benefits to be derived from the project implementation; section 1.4 delineates a 'roadmap' for the project.
The EESSI project (formerly PROTECTUS) will ensure that Member States exchange data electronically once the new, modernised and simplified European Regulations coordinating social security, which require the transmission of data between institutions to be carried out by electronic means under a common secure network, begin to apply in 2009.
The ultimate aim is to strengthen the protection of the social security rights of ci3.2 tizens who are mobile by fully computerising application of the EC law on social security. This will in turn facilitate and speed up the decision-making process for the actual calculation and payment of social security benefits to citizens who move around Europe.
Today Social Security organisations find themselves in a new environment with new demands. Innovation will not only help them survive but it can also help them thrive. This is even more true in the current financial and economic crisis which is undoubtedly affecting the Social Security in many ways. Indeed the current downturn can actually provide smart organisations and the Government with an opportunity to take a balanced view of their operations and create opportunities for change that can help them become more effective and efficient in the long run.
In this context, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is seen as the technological infrastructure on which the information systems needed for the operation and functioning of a social security organisation are built and deployed. It follows that social security benefits depend largely on personal data for calculation and payment. For example from a national perspective information is obtained daily from internal sources, such as, contribution records, benefit entitlements; and external sources, such as other social security institutions, employers, government entities, european union and other countries. The information required can vary from personal details, income declarations, and contribution payments to economic and/or demographic projections
This process requires a complex flow of information both internally and externally. It is therefore obvious that the principal critical success factor for the department of any social security organisation to issue benefits due in a timely manner is to own an information system which enables it to reach its objectives.
As a result information systems are increasingly being considered as a critical element necessary for shifting current reactive benefit strategies, to a more proactive approach in line with Public Service initiatives focusing on enhanced customer service such as, better regulation initiatives and quality service charters and one-stop-shops in addition to the curtailing of government spending. ICT infrastructure and data held by social secuirty organisations are relatively strong and offer opportunities for innovative service delivery mechanisms. However, the current lack of integration between the business processes and system modules leads to fragmentation and duplication of processes, which hinders proper vertical and horizontal linkages in the value chain.
Information systems must therefore meet certain standards to provide accurate, meaningful and timely information. With this in mind, the recommendations underline the need to move towards a multi-tier service based system capable of providing proactive information that would enable the social security organisations to meet their organisational and national objectives. Achieving this would result in improved organisational activities and better rationalisation of their principal assets - information and people.
- Project Scope
The primary goal of this project is to investigate how ICT can respond to rapid and unexpected social legislative and economic change. We will try to determine how can ICT add value and renovate social security into a dynamic service. This study will focus on information systems currently in place within the Maltese Social Security Division (DSS) and those which are being adopted in the European Union and which allow or will allow the transmission of data between Member States by electronic means and common secure framework, that can ultimately guarantee the confidentiality and protection electronic data exchanges. The study will therefore lead to a number of recommendations for an enhanced national information system which will also exchange data electronically with the other European Member States.
A conceptual framework using Unified Modeling Language (UML) will be built to serve as the basis for integrating the lcoal social services into a holistic system across the European Union.
- Key Business Benefits
The business benefits derived from this study are:
- Streamline benefit claim processing through an integrated and automated assessment mechanism
- Be in a position to satisfy the requirements introduced by the upcoming socio- political changes, especially those related to the reform of the Maltese pensions system as well as the automated exchanges of data with social security institutions in other EU member-states.
- The proposed system should provide citizens with a holistic view on their pension account which includes the information managed by DSS as well as other related information which may/will be managed by third party administrators (e.g. data related to the second and third pension pillars). This requires the consolidation of pension related information which would be managed by the external pension administrators such as, for example, banks and other financial institutions. The system should also enable the automated assessment of pension applications as well as make allowances for the management of possible private pension schemes that may be introduced by Government.
- Support parameterised business logic to facilitate the introduction of additional measures as may be required from time to time.
- Online availability of all social security services aimed at reducing processing time through the shifting of the data capture process and thus enhancing the quality of services offered to the public.
- Shift from batch processing concept to "online" or "live" claim processing, building upon the social charter of being available when the citizen is really in need.
- Introduction of automated data exchange mechanisms between the department and other departments or external entities (e.g. inland revenue, banks, financial institutions etc) primarily aimed at ensuring that the assessment of social security claims is carried out using up-to-date information.
- Offer a one-stop online shop for all social-benefits related services (e.g. social security, housing, student stipend and grants, pensions, etc).
- Provide the necessary framework for the implementation of a common benchmark for means testing purposes and which is applicable to the requirements of different entities (e.g. DSS, Housing Authority, Social Housing etc.). The system should incorporate a means testing mechanism based on the government's "one yardstick" initiative. This mechanism should be based on common parameters that can be migrated to different "consumers", whereby each consumer may add on specific means test parameters applicable and particular to the benefit/service being awarded (e.g. DSS, Housing Authority, Social Housing etc).
- Integrated workflow management to enable prioritisation and workload allocation and monitoring
- Integrate with the Government's / Department's collaborative environments as well as with the Government's central systems thus minimising the dependency on data uploads, paper documents and manual processes
- Provide document management facilities to minimise the dependency on paper-files thus enabling customer care officers to assist clients without the need to request the respective file from head office
- Better support the policy making process through integrated report generation and business intelligence tools
- Minimise the possibility of benefit fraud (currently estimated at approximately €3.2m per annum) which require considerable effort to detect and eventually recoup. Investigations are currently initiated once a claim is assessed and authorised for payment and, in most cases, following a report received by to benefit fraud directorate. It is, however, recommended that this process is shifted from the post-assessment phase to the application stage whereby a risk assessment on each and every claim received by the department would be automatically carried out by the system. It is envisaged that this should reduce the operational cost related to the investigation process thus reducing the amount of overpayments paid to beneficiaries as well as enabling the benefit fraud directorate to focus more on data mining and analysis.
- Project Report 'roadmap'
Following is a brief outline of subsequent chapters in this Project:
Chapter 2 - Literature Review
The Literature Review is based upon previous literature research and it presents an understanding of the problem domain and at the same time provides a critical review of the material.
Chapter 3 - Objectives/Activities/Methods
In line with the Project Proposal this chapter states in terms of high-level objectives precisely what the project sets out to achieve and the methods adopted in order to satisfy these objective.
Chapter 4 - Description of Work Done
This chapter explains how the work was carried out and in particular it focuses on the software develoment process.
Chapter 5 - Summary and Presentation of Results
This chapter provides the reader with an 'executive summary' or quick reference of what has been done. The chapter summarises what has actually been achieved and how.
Chapter 6 - Conclusion
In this chapter we draw the logical conclusions, provide an assessment of the completed software product, assess the project and recommend ways for the project to be extended.