By assisting the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) to stabilise its infrastructure and systems, M-IT has enabled the organisation to achieve its strategic objectives. M-IT has additionally improved the LRA’s IT governance and developed a stable platform to deliver additional systems and services.
M-IT recently assisted the Lesotho Revenue Authority to improve the quality of its service provision by redesigning its ICT infrastructure and systems.
The Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) was established by an act of parliament in 2001 to incorporate the functions of the income tax, customs and excise, and sales tax departments, all of which previously fell under the Ministry of Finance.
The LRA became operational in 2003 and is principally responsible for the assessment, collection and remittance of all public revenue in Lesotho on the government’s behalf.
Idia Penane, CIO: Lesotho Revenue Authority, explains that the project was one of the initiatives identified in the LRA’s 2006/09 ICT strategy: “Our goal was to stabilise the current LRA’s infrastructure and systems, standardise these through improved IT governance, and then use this stable platform to deliver additional systems and services to enable the LRA to achieve its strategic objectives.”
Cobus Bezuidenhout, solutions architect at M-IT, says that the LRA was experiencing a lot of problems with its ICT infrastructure and services, most notably in terms of email and internet access.
“The LRA’s problems included poor performance of the network; connection problems with its remote offices; a poor and intermittent email system; poor availability and instability of the internet; virus attacks; and general security issues.”
The project was therefore aimed at identifying the causes of these problems and then implementing solutions to resolve them.
The LRA embarked on a tender process to find a supplier to assist it in achieving these objectives. M-IT was subsequently selected as the preferred bidder based on its proposed methodology, as well as its expertise.
M-IT performed a health check on the LRA’s systems, putting together a 30 page document outlining the then problems with the organisation’s infrastructure. It additionally provided a new network design based on the Cisco and Microsoft product ranges.
As solutions architect, Bezuidenhout was involved in the project from the outset; managing the initial health check, compiling the report, designing the new infrastructure and managing the implementation thereof. He explains that the solutions he helped implement were selected specifically to address the problems that were stated in the requirements document.
“We thus went on to resolve the switching and routing problems that existed, and implement a number of Microsoft back-end services. These included a server operating system; an active directory; Microsoft Exchange (with Outlook web access); and DNS.”
Symantec Antivirus software, a Microsoft ISA server and Microsoft SMS and MOM were also implemented.
“In terms of network stabilisation, M-IT built the LRA’s new environment (AD domain, EXchange, SMS, MOM, ISA and so forth) next to its operational one. Our team then partnered with the LRA’s internal IT team to migrate users from the old network to the new network,” explains Bezuidenhout.
The project was carried out in two phases: an audit and an implementation phase. The audit phase involved investigating causes of the problems that were being experienced and then proposing a solution. The implementation phase involved putting the proposed solutions in place.
M-IT’s business process and technology division was involved in the project, partnering with the LRA’s implementation team. The team was primarily involved in configurating workstations to the new environment.
The implementation took three months. Bezuidenhout explains that it was relatively complex due to the LRA previously having four active directory forests which had to be collapsed into one new single forest configuration. It additionally had to change from a public IP address system to a private one.
Other minor challenges included the creation of new user profiles and migration of mailboxes to the new system. These were, however, resolved quickly through consultation and re-planning. Penane explains that these challenges were as a result of a LRA oversight made during the project planning concerning the risks that could occur and actions required to mitigate them.
“We have used this as an important lesson for future projects – every possible situation needs to be planned for and precautions need to be taken.”
Apart from the slight confusion inherent to a migration of this kind, the LRA staff were positive throughout the process.
“The new systems have made a real difference. The LRA almost feels like a whole new place. Whereas before sending an email and surfing the net were a complete nightmare, now they’re quick and easy. To top it all off, we can access our mail from anywhere over the internet through Outlook Web Access (OWA),” says Penane.
Penane says that the impact of the LRA’s now properly functioning systems cannot be overemphasised. “Email and internet access affect the perception of people about technology and what it can do.”
The immediate benefits being felt throughout the organisation are faster and more reliable email; faster internet access; improved protection against viruses; and connection to some of the remote offices with the provision of email and internet services to these sites.
Bezuidenhout explains that when it comes to the long-term, the LRA has already approached M-IT to expand its services to other remote offices, including those of customs border posts. “This will improve communication with people in these outlying areas which has been a major concern for LRA management.”
He adds that the new systems will additionally enable the LRA to expand the head office systems to outlying stations, especially those of its advice centres, “They will therefore enable the LRA to offer some of the services offered at head office to taxpayers outside of Maseru through its advice centres.”
Penane describes the experience of working with M-IT as extremely refreshing.
“M-IT has restored my faith in suppliers. I have worked with numerous with whom I have had to fight in order to get the right solution delivered. So often suppliers submit a remarkable proposal that wins them the tender and then change their tune when they have to finally deliver against this. M-IT acted as our partner in the process from start to finish.
"As far as I am concerned, this was fundamental to the success of the project. M-IT’s team was there to listen to our requirements, advise us on a solution and then implement it.”
She adds that, prior to this project, there was a lot of skepticism about whether things would really improve through such an implementation.
“Cobus promised that by the time he left the LRA we would be working in a different world. He kept his word and everyone has already forgotten how unstable our email was. If anything, the team has overdelivered on their promises.”
Today the M-IT designed and built network is fully operational within the LRA. And, while Bezuidenhout maintains that the most rewarding aspect of the project for him personally was seeing the effects of the new systems on office morale, the project has impacted on lives far beyond the walls of head office.
“By making our systems that much more efficient, we’ve enabled our people to become that much more efficient too. This means we’re better able to serve our citizens,” says Penane.
M-IT’s LRA implementation should thus serve to encourage other organisations to realise the potential of their ICT systems and, in so doing, take their performance and delivery levels to new heights.