The Department of Human Services (DHS) will shed additional staff in order to create efficiencies that will go towards funding DHS system replacements.
A Senate Estimates Committee has been told that the Department has had an average staffing level (ASL) reduction of 4,600 staff since 2011-12 with an additional 2,000 to be shed in the 2014-15.
The staff cuts are estimated to contribute to more than $2 billion worth of internal efficiency savings from 2014-15 – 2017-18. DHS’ Secretary, Kathryn Campbell said “I have year-by-year savings which, from 2014-15 onwards, next year, is $460 million; 2015-16 is $512 million; 2016-17 is $561 million; and 2017-18 is $566 million”.
The Department is currently in the process of replacing many of its core systems that are nearing the end of their lifespan. Campbell has revealed that there is a possibility their replacement will be funded by efficiency savings made internally while additional funding for its Customer First platform is yet to be decided.
In February 2014, DHS signed a $101 million contract with Accenture for a SAP based replacement to the Department’s Child Support Payment System (Cuba). According to Campbell, the replacement is being “funded internally by efficiencies within the Department”.
In the 2013-14 Federal Budget, DHS was allocated $34.7 million in capital funding for the Cuba project. It can be assumed, based off this figure, that the remaining $66.3 million was likely to have been funded by DHS’ efficiency savings.
Cuba was established in 2002 and supports approximately $3.2 billion in annual payment over 1.5 million individuals, according to the original Expression of Interest (EOI) released in July 2013. It is due to be finished by December 2015.
DHS is currently unsure as to the value of any future funding towards its Customer First platform. The platform integrates over 20 different systems “from front end iPads, staff facing SAP applications, through to the back end main frame”, according to a DHS spokesperson. It is currently used by 23,000 staff across 500 sites, according to DHS’ 2012-13 Annual Report.
The spokesperson told Intermedium, “It is one of many initiatives in the department to improve the quality of service provided to our customers and provides functionality such as work allocation, front-of-house queue management, and appointment management and booking.”
The spokesperson also said, “A number of ICT Service Providers from the Contractor Services Panel have been used as required to supplement DHS’s workforce for specific aspects of Customer First build including a number of service integrators.” DHS did not name any of the suppliers.
The project was due to be completed by the end of 2013-14, however, the Senate Estimates Committee was told that the system continues to “evolve” meaning DHS can’t put an exact finish date on it.
“We have a look and when we get new programs and are asked to do new jobs, sometimes we will have to add to that system”, said Campbell. As a result the system will constantly be altered “as new policy parameters come into being”.
$15 million in system costs have been allocated to the project during 2013-14, however, as the system is continually being altered an ongoing maintenance cost could not be provided.
Campbell also revealed that the system’s implementation has had some stabilisation issues effecting frontline staff. This subsequently caused a degradation of services that impacted upon customers, however, no specific detail was provided.
Ben Rimmer, the Associate Secretary of the Service Delivery Transformation and Performance Group within DHS told the committee, “the new Customer First system is built in technology that, over time, should be cheaper and easier to change and be easier for our staff to grapple with as new programs and services come into effect.”
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