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Access Card – Is it dead, or “just resting”?

by Staff Writers •
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It’s just like a scene from Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch.  The more the Government declares the failed Access Card project to be dead, the more rumours to the contrary continue to circulate.

Last week at the Cards and Payments Australasia Conference, Human Services Minister the Hon Joe Ludwig announced there will be a tender for a new revamped Basics Card.  The card will upgrade the existing Human Services Basics Card used for income management in the Northern Territory.

Ludwig explained the Government “introduced the Basics Card last September as an interim solution for indigenous communities and shop owners encountering problems under income management as part of the Northern Territory Emergency”.  The Card was delivered without a tender process, due to time restrictions.  Six months later, the Government has declared the first version of the Basics Card to be a clear success.  Building on this success, the Human Services Portfolio will approach the market later in the year to look for a long term solution.

The Government has done its best to distance itself from the previous failed Access Card project.  However rumours have been circulating for the last six months within the bureaucracy that the two initiatives are somehow linked.

In February and March last year, Minister Ludwig made clear statements in Parliament that the Access Card project was dead.  Answering a question from Senator Polley, Minister Ludwig declared “I can confirm that the Government has terminated the Liberal’s much flawed Access Card”.  His stated reasons were that the project had “underestimated the cost and overestimated the savings” and “was little more than an ID card by stealth”.  In March, during a parliamentary exchange with Senator Coonan, Ludwig continued his earlier comments.  “The Access Card has been terminated. It will not be continued with”.

At a National Press Club speech on 11 March 2009, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner listed “abolishing the flawed access card” as one of the government’s successes in reigning in excessive government expenditure.

At Ludwig’s speech last week, he again distanced himself from an unnamed failed project.  “I have previously spoken about my preference for taking a modular approach to procurement and system development rather than the mega IT projects that all too often fall victim to function-creep, cost blow-outs and implementation delays.  I think we all know what I’m hinting at here”.

Ludwig is eager to carve out a new direction through industry consultations.  The government has done its best to declare Access Card to be dead, deceased, and to have definitely dropped off its perch.   

Industry is likely to look carefully at the coming tender and associated industry consultations for proof that the change is real.

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