Earlier this year, well-publicised problems with the payment of salaries and allowances to Australia’s elite SAS forces highlighted ongoing problems with Defence’s HR systems.
More recently, Defence Minister John Faulkner publicly spoke of the extent of the problem, and reiterated the Government’s commitment to invest “up to $500 million in a new payroll system, underpinned by robust processes and training packages”.
In a speech to the Australia and New Zealand School of Government in Sydney, the Minister noted that:
“…each fortnight, around $250 million is paid to around 100,000 ADF personnel and Defence staff, including compensation payments. There are on average, 140,000 manual transactions associated with personnel administration every fortnight – 3.45 million every year.”
He described a number of Defence’s administration and information management systems as ”out-of-date and under great stress”. After making the $½ billion investment, Faulkner says that “while no pay system can be guaranteed to be completely free of errors, we are determined to put in place processes to ensure any mistakes are identified quickly and handled appropriately.”
More broadly, the Defence Minister used the speech to outline some of the priorities he no doubt has in mind for his new Secretary, Dr Ian Watt (former Secretary of the Department of Finance and Deregulation) who will undoubtedly be working closely with Defence CFO Phillip Prior and CIO Greg Farr:
“We are undertaking a number of initiatives in this area, including:
- Bringing ICT capital expenditure together as a single portfolio across all areas of Defence;
- Eliminating the need for multiple desktop workstations operating at different security classifications;
- Replacing ageing equipment;
- Consolidating Defence data centres.
- Improving interoperability with our key allies.
These steps are the start of ensuring a more streamlined, flexible and cost-effective ICT system for Defence.”
Faulkner also revealed that his Ministerial colleague Greg Combet, Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, provides personal oversight into major Defence projects that have shown cost, schedule or capability problems.