$46 million in new IT project funding could be redirected from the sale of TAFE assets across New South Wales, a document acquired by NSW Greens MP John Kaye has revealed. The increase in capital expenditure is likely to be reinvested in new models of services such as online learning.
The leaked document outlines $63 million of proposed divestments – largely through the sale of surplus land or consolidation of assets – to fund TAFE NSW’s $54.5 million Capital Expenditure Limit requirement for the 2015-16 period.
$32.3 million will be used to fund “new major capital works including ICT which are cash flowed over forward years”, along with an additional $22.2 million for minor capital works, according to the document.
The largest amount of funding ($17.5 million) will go to the South Western Sydney Institute for development of the Online Learning Network platform, which provides TAFE NSW with core technologies and services. The funding will also allow first phase development “…of the fundamental integrating component of the TAFE NSW Asset Ecosystem ensuring accessibility and interoperability across all components of the Asset Ecosystem as well as through a multitude of device in almost any environment.”
Other proposed investments include a $2 million upgrade of ICT infrastructure at St Leonards TAFE.
A number of capital investment projects have been approved for the 2015-16 period, including:
- $9.8 million to refurbish 11 Western Institute sites into “…multi-purpose interactive learning hubs for students providing them access to online simulated and connected learning delivery modes”;
- $9.2 million to “…enable greater use of new and emerging technologies and support the delivery of facilitated online learning” at the Illawarra Institute; and
- $7.5 million to upgrade and simplify “…a range of organisation-wide ICT processes and business systems” at the Western Institute.
The planned upgrades are in addition to the student administration, finance and HR/payroll systems that all TAFE institutes received as part of the Learning Management Business Reform (LMBR) program – one of the largest business transformation programs ever undertaken by the NSW Department of Education. These were progressively rolled out from 2010 and were announced to have been fully implemented with the introduction of the Student Administration and Learning Management (SALM) system in 2014.
However, earlier this year it was reported that many students were not officially enrolled in their respective courses due to implementation issues.
A 2014 report by the NSW Auditor-General Grant Hehir also found that the LMBR program was implemented with known defects, and that “the total expenditure on the LMBR program to 30 June 2014 was $531.4 million… $48.4 million over the expected total cost of $483 million to complete the LMBR program.”
The divestment plan was also exposed during the NSW Education Budget Estimate hearing last month, when Courtney Houssos questioned the Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli about the “…proceeds from the sale of property, plant and equipment…” which “…are expected to increase this year from roughly $3.5 million to almost $30 million.” Piccoli declined to answer and instead took the question on notice.
However, the NSW TAFE Strategic Plan 2014-16 does indicate that facilities which are under-utilised would be targeted to respond to new service directions, and that reinvestment in new technologies would occur.
Responsibility for TAFE was moved from the Education cluster to the Industry, Skills and Regional Development cluster in April, and is now the responsibility of Minster for Regional Development, Skills and Small Business John Barilaro.
TAFE was allocated $101 million in the 2015-16 Budget for 20 major infrastructure and ICT initiatives.