Tanner wants to improve outcomes and save money, but sees benefits for industry in the post-Gershon reforms. Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner made an unexpected appearance and gave an off-the cuff address to AGIMO’s major industry briefing in Canberra on Friday 30 January 2009 that attracted a full house (a further briefing is now planned for Wednesday 4 February). Clearly on top of his subject and completely at ease with repeating earlier key messages, the Minister gave colourful anecdotes about earlier procurement models utilised in government.
He described the approach that prevailed until the late 80’s as the ‘Soviet approach’. All procurement was centralised, there was no agency autonomy to procure specific to its needs and as a result there were massive inefficiencies, no innovation and significant bureaucratic inertia.
On the other hand, he said, the approach that prevailed under the previous Liberal government was the ‘holding company’ or conglomerate approach where central government provided its satellites (120 agencies) with initial capital and then paid little further attention to procurement outcomes. This model resulted in ‘blissful disconnection’ according to Tanner. While there was maximum agency autonomy, the model denied government the opportunity to get full value for money and higher standards of performance from suppliers.
Tanner now wants to see a point of equilibrium established – something he calls ‘a rational hybrid’ model that allows government to get the value that collective buying and oversight will achieve but at the same time allows for agency autonomy.
He reiterated one of the key themes of the Gershon Report – agency CEOs need to be fully aware of the central role ICT plays within their organisation. Underscoring this, he quoted a senior ANZ Bank executive as recently describing ANZ as a “an IT organisation that delivers banking services”.
In making these changes, there are challenges to industry. Tanner made it clear he is committed to “spending as little as possible”. However, there are interests between government and industry that should align and overlap, and he insisted there will be a clear upside to industry through less convoluted and repetitive processes in future procurement processes.
He stressed Government wants to save money but at the same time get optimal outcomes. To achieve this, Tanner wants better engagement with, and input from the ICT sector. He has no doubt that there will be both collaborative and adversarial impacts as these changes come about, but he wants to see industry heavily engaged and influential.
Possibly due to the impromptu nature of the address, Tanner made no reference to his Ministerial colleagues or the Cabinet ICT Committee announced as part of the Government’s response to the Gershon Report.
Sir Peter recognised the critical importance of top level Ministerial leadership to affect the change program his report outlined. Minister Tanner is clearly committed to this.
While Ministers now have many other issues on their plate, it will be important for AGIMO to be seen as having sponsorship from more than the Finance Minister to achieve this program.
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