All South Australian government agencies have now ceased using Shared Services SA (SSSA) for ICT support, with the Attorney-General’s Department the last to leave.
A Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) spokesperson has told Intermedium that “Shared Services no longer provides ICT support to any Government agencies.” It will, however, “continue to provide centralised financial and payroll services across Government....”
The spokesperson said that while SSSA’s host agency DPC still “provides ICT support to some areas within the Attorney-General's Department, we are in the process of transitioning these back to AGD.”
SSSA stopped providing ICT support to DPC as part of a departmental restructure in January 2015, the spokesperson said. “[Shared Services ICT] Staff were co-located with other ICT support staff to provide services across the Department.”
The restructure was brought on by Chief Executive Kym Winter-Dewhirst “to streamline and strengthen operations, reduce duplication, and to consolidate like services and functions to focus on single point accountability,” according to the DPC’s latest Annual Report.
However, in late July 2015 (the now former) Minister for the Public Sector Susan Close told a Budget Estimates hearing that DPC along with the AGs Department was still receiving ICT support from SSSA. It is unclear if Close was referring to SSSA as a separate entity to DPC’s ICT unit.
In any case, DPC and AG’s Department were the final agencies to leave SSSA for ICT support after the decision by the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure to transfer ICT related services in-house.
Close hinted at the possibility that AG’s Department would discontinue using ICT support from SSSA in Estimates last year, when she was asked if any agencies were planning to leave.
“I understand that similar discussions are now taking place with the Attorney-General’s Department, so it is possible that they will also make that decision,” she said.
Close also discussed the history of the state’s shared services program. “The challenge is that there was not really a transition in the first place and then the decision was made not to proceed with tranche 4.”
Tranche 4 of the shared services model had involved ICT support services being transitioned from in-scope agencies to SSSA during 2011-12, according to a 2010-11 Treasury Annual Report. “For the larger agencies, Tranche 4 will transition limited services, for example, ICT user support and the support of client devices and business productivity tools. For other agencies a wider range of services will transition including communication, hosting, and data and network services,” according to the report.
Close told Estimates: “… there is always complexity and consideration between what is best done in a centralised way and what is best done close to the individual business units… You do not want to disaggregate ICT from your business. If you do not have it fully integrated, then you are not doing your business nowadays.”
When asked about whether decisions by agencies to move away from SSSA had worked to undermine its purpose in regards to delivering economies of scale, Close responded that “there is not a great scale that was existing that has been taken away.”
A report by outgoing Auditor-General Simon O’Neill in 2013 found that the government had not accurately anticipated the cost or time required to implement a whole-of-government shared services scheme. It suggested that by 2016-17, the Shared Services reform was only likely to have achieved $56.9 million of the original $130 million in estimated savings.
The decision to move away from the shared services model stands in contrast to the recent trend across Australia. A number of jurisdictions have moved to reinforce their shared service options.
This was most recently seen in Victoria with the decision to halt the outsourcing of the government’s in-house ICT services provider CenITex, and instead, improve its service offering. “Only those service for which there is contestability among a range of existing service providers” will now be considered for outsourcing, stated a DPC review.
The Queensland Government also put an end to future uncertainty at the state’s shared ICT service provider in mid-2015, after it confirmed that CITEC would continue to be owned and operated by the government.
New South Wales has now closed its own shared service centre – ServiceFirst – to deliver its plan to outsource key ICT service functions, business processes and HR function to Unisys and Infosys, which is expected to deliver around $20 million in annual savings.