The NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) is drawing up plans to dissolve its central shared services unit Businesslink, The Australian revealed this morning.
The newspaper has obtained a letter from Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward explaining her intention to prepare a transition plan “outlining steps to Businesslink's dissolution”.
The news may not come as a huge surprise to some. Since forming government in April 2011 the O’Farrell Coalition and particularly Finance and Services Minister Greg Pearce has made no secret of its dissatisfaction with the State’s troubled shared services agencies Businesslink and ServiceFirst.
However this unilateral move by Goward brings a sense of immediacy to the question of shared services alternatives. Once Businesslink is gone, what will the FACS cluster do to support its ICT and other corporate functions?
Goward’s office is remaining tight-lipped on the details of its plans.
“We need to take stock of current shared services plans and ensure they are properly aligned to where FACS is going and the high standards this Government places on breaking disadvantage for our most vulnerable.
“The NSW Government is considering how to work better and smarter in the area of shared services for Family and Community Services,” said a spokesman for the Minister.
If the Government’s rhetoric to date is anything to go by, however, FACS will be looking very closely at outsourcing current Businesslink services to the market.
When pushed on his vision for shared services back in October 2012, Pearce said that he was “looking towards outsourcing options because of course there are businesses out there that can do this work much better than we can”. Pearce’s office has today advised that shared services arrangements are still under review.
This outsourcing is a path is one the Victorian Government has already set upon.
Briefing slides obtained by a journalist from The Age last month revealed the State’s intention to transform its central ICT shared services agency CenITex into a broker of outsourced ICT services rather than providing them itself.
CenITex plans to start issuing requests for proposals for all four service areas currently provided by CenITex on a mandatory basis to the State’s agencies (desktop services, processing, storage and network) as early as July 2013.
And Queensland will follow very soon, having accepted recommendations of Peter Costello’s Commission of Audit which advise the Government to end the mandatory requirement for agencies to utilise internal providers CITEC and QSS, and instead allow these organisations to compete against the private sector for the right to supply agencies.
Since its establishment in 2002, Businesslink has provided finance, human resources, ICT, property, workforce and business services primarily to the Department of Family and Community Services but also to agencies formerly within the FACS cluster such as Aboriginal Affairs NSW (now within the Education and Communities cluster) and Juvenile Justice (now within the Attorney General and Justice cluster).
The agency employed 742 staff and 123 contractors as of the end of June 2012.
However the final report of the NSW Commission of Audit found that like ServiceFirst, Businesslink was not performing as it should.
“Neither ServiceFirst nor Businesslink currently meet customer expectations across a number of vital functions. Neither is truly integrated and in many instances the level of service is poor. Nine years after its establishment, Businesslink is now in the process of integrating its three SAP systems,” it said, before recommending that both be scrapped and replaced with a new entity.
The latest FACS annual report shows that client satisfaction rates were up 3.7 per cent to 82.4 per cent in 2011-12. However complaints were also up, reaching 197 in the financial year from just 93 the year before.
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