Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner and AGIMO Head Ann Steward last week outlined some clear expectations of what they think Sir Peter Gershon should recommend as part of his independent review of Government ICT.
In a speech to the eGovernment Forum @CeBIT Australia, Mr Tanner gave strong hints about the need for a Government-wide portfolio project management capability. Referring to problems with a number of high profile ICT projects, he indicated that the Government may create a central unit to monitor major ICT projects and upgrades. Whilst he mentioned this in the context of the Gershon review he gave the strong impression that it was more than a possibility.
Mr Tanner stated that currently there were gaps in the 'corporate memory' of the public service in relation to major projects, and a need for more information to assess the cost/benefit of upgrade projects. “We need the right information to be able to determine the cost-benefit ratio of continuing with our current approach to ICT upgrades”, he said.
Emphasising that projects must be assessed not only on efficiency but on the outcomes for citizens, Mr Tanner suggested that a central unit would help assess citizen-centric outcomes, assess risks and co-ordinate projects to avoid skills bottlenecks.
In her address at the same conferece, Ann Steward outlined that all Federal Government projects with a value of more than $30 million, and with a technology component greater than $10 million will be required to go through a two stage approval process, along the same lines implemented in Defence for major procurements, following the 2003 Kinnaird Review. (Malcolm Kinnaird's major, independent review of Defence procurement led to the restructuring of DMO and gave birth to its role at arm’s length from the Department).
A heightened role for both AGIMO and the Cabinet Implementation Unit within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is suggested by both initiatives. It also suggests the trialling of the “Gateway” review process for major projects (which Sir Peter Gershon introduced to UK civil procurement during his tenure of the Office of Government Commerce) will be implemented more extensively across Federal Government programs.
The speeches also indicated that major suppliers to government, such as Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, SAP, Telstra and Optus would all come under pressure as the Federal Government seeks to harness and leverage its purchasing power to achieve better deals. In the first of these, Defence has been nominated as the lead agency in a review of arrangements with Microsoft.
Mr Tanner said that the Government's new approach to procurement would require a cultural change in agencies that now look inward and don’t co-operate. He said agencies will need to find new ways to collaborate and improve service delivery, including sharing assets.