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By Margaret Wise

SUVA, Fiji Islands (October 27, 1999 – Fiji Times)---The Y2K bug struck the Value Added Tax system yesterday and experts predict a serious loss in revenue if the problem is not fixed immediately.

The programs affected involve revenue to be collected from more than 11,500 clients.

Sailasa Taganisia, manager of Information Technology and Computing Services, confirmed that he had received reports on the crash of the programs at the VAT Unit.

He said the matter would be left to the University of the South Pacific, recently engaged by the Prime Minister to upgrade the department's computer system.

"My officers have reported that VAT has a problem that is Y2K related. The USP, which has been engaged to look after the VAT programs, will have to deal with it,'' Mr. Taganisia said.

He said he could not comment further on the nature of the problem because he had yet to receive a full report.

VAT Unit boss Abdul Hakim said he was not aware of the incident. It is understood the ITC has not been able to reach USP officials working on the VAT programs.

The bug hit the computers this week, refusing to print monthly forms for revenue to be collected from some of the 11,500 clients billed on a three-month cycle.

This comprises three forms, one for each month.

On Monday the computer began the normal billing cycle for the three-monthly clients.

It printed the first two forms as normal. However, the form for the third month, January, posed problems.

The computer read the 00 in the date as being the year 1900 and tried to print a form for each month since then – 1,200 forms for each of 11,500 clients.

The Fiji Times was told last night that the system is unable to cope with the work load and that, even if all the forms were produced, it would be impossible to send them out.

A senior VAT officer said tax collection would be affected from now onwards.

"The Prime Minister has been ill-advised. He is listening to his cronies instead of the professionals,'' he said.

"Government needs to do something fast or it will lose revenue that is vital to its operations.''

Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has dismissed several warnings on the effects of the millennium bug saying as recently as last Friday that the Y2K bug is not a problem.

"All the Government systems will be fully compliant, some of them are already compliant and those that are remaining will be fully compliant well before December 31,'' Mr. Chaudhry said last Friday.

He said he did not expect the VAT Unit to lose any revenue over the Y2K bug.

The Government engaged the USP because it would cost less and an audit report recommended that the current system could be upgraded to be Y2K compliant.

"Our previous consultants were wanting to rewrite the entire program, sell us a lot of hardware and make a lot of money in the process,'' Mr. Chaudhry said.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

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