Infosys is a technologist, not tax expert: Mohandas Pai opens up on the I-T filing fiasco

Clipped from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/company/corporate-trends/infosys-is-a-technologist-not-tax-expert-mohandas-pai-opens-up-on-the-i-t-filing-fiasco/articleshow/86057508.cmsSynopsis

Former director director Mohandas Pai has highlighted how the problems with the Income Tax Portal arose from unrealistic and vague expectations from both the government and the tech giant. He suggests ways to go forward and evade similar problems further.

The row over RSS-affiliated Panchjanya’s accusations against software major Infosys has merited a strong response from the IT bellwether’s former directors and other industry veterans.

Former director of Infosys, Mohandas Pai, believes that the chaos between the government and Indian tech giant Infosys arises from the ‘gap between ability and expectations on both sides’.

In an interview to Swarajya magazine, Pai said that those at Infosys and other IT firms are technologists and not deep domain experts on matters related to tax. He further said that the IT major could have roped in CAs from ICAI to test the IT portal’s efficacy from the end user point of view.

He also cited the example of mess around the Obamacare website and said that better communication can avoid such fiascos.

Last month, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman ‘summoned’ Infosys CEO over the unresolved tech issues the Income Tax Portal managed by Infosys has been facing.

Sitharaman expressed disappointment and gave the company until September 15 to fix things.

In the same conversation with Swarajya Magazine, he pointed out that the Finance Ministry does not have adequate expertise to understand the technical complexities. They are used to ‘dealing with files and not databases’.

A lack of a stable set of people dealing with the system and processes, lack of software testing and competence to manage such a project with the software creates an inevitable problem to solve.

Amid the lack of communication between the two bodies, a magazine affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) shot an article criticizing Infosys for failing to clean up the Income Tax Website mess.

Infosys has been referred to as “anti-national” by the article for letting down the tax system.

Magazine Panchjanya doubted the company’s intentions when it published that the company was making mistakes over and over again. “There are allegations that the management of Infosys is deliberately trying to destabilize the Indian economy,” it said.

The criticism of groups like Infosys and Tata are close to “harassment” of businesses and risks, a venture capital executive exclaimed.

Companies are scared and firms do not wish to get into trouble when it comes to the government. A mutual fund manager with Tata and Infosys worried the government is not on the side of the businesses and companies and could bash them for such lapses.

Pai tried to explain how the problem should have been dealt with in the first place.

He termed it unrealistic to switch off the old system, turn it back on in a week and expect it to work flawlessly. People have to be ‘trained’ to transition seamlessly into a new process.

According to Pai, ideally, the system should have been launched, public intimated, utilities updated and the crowd should have been smoothly informed about the latest additions. Within 3-4 months and with realistic expectations aboard, ‘it would’ve all worked out,’ he said in the interview with Swarajya.

Pai held Infosys accountable too as he said that the company didn’t set the right expectations either.

“They should’ve gone to the government and told them that the UAT (User Acceptance Testing) needed to be much more rigorous and for that it could get 200-300 chartered accountants with the help of the ICAI, and take the help of experts at portals like ClearTax to do proper UAT,” Pai highlighted.

“That’s where rubber hits the road.” He reinforced the need for testing the system so the gaps could be ironed out.

He reiterated that the tech company could only have tested the software end of the system. Problems could better be anticipated at the user-end.

Trained CAs, he added, should have been made to use the system because they would be the ones interacting with taxpayers first-hand.

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