The ongoing implementation of Machinery of Government (MoG) changes across federal agencies involves major changes for public sector staff, core ICT systems and existing contracts and suppliers.
The MoG changes implemented by the new Coalition Government in September have resulted in the creation of the Department of Social Services (DSS), which will absorb most of the responsibilities of the former Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA).
In addition, DSS has also gained several new responsibilities, according to the new Administrative Arrangements Orders (AAO). These include responsibility for:
- Aged care;
- Income support;
- Disability employment services;
- Settlement services;
- Multicultural affairs; and
- Non-profit sector and volunteering.
Some FaHCSIA functions, including the Office for Women and responsibility for Indigenous Affairs, have been transferred to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The implementation of MoG changes involves the complex transfer of business and administration systems, the consolidation of multiple ICT support arrangements and changes to staff numbers and internal structure.
Although DSS declined to provide exact information about updated staff numbers at this stage, it is likely to see a net increase in staff after gaining six responsibilities whilst only shedding two.
Despite the ongoing changes over coming months, a spokesperson from DSS indicated that business functions and services will continue to be carried out.
“We are determined to ensure the smoothest possible transition, while also maintaining business continuity, and have set up dedicated teams to manage these changes.
“The Department of Social Services will also work closely with other affected Government agencies to ensure the continued delivery of government programs and services during this period.”
Under the Commonwealth Procurement Rules (CPR), the ‘gaining agency’ is required to continue any procurement processes that had been underway in a particular portfolio prior to the MoG changes.
If the procurement is no longer deemed by the ‘gaining agency’ to be in the public interest, the CPR provides scope for the process to be terminated.
“Examples of situations in which it may not be in the public interest to award the contract include…machinery of government changes affecting responsibilities between agencies for programs to which the procurement relates,” states the CPR.
The largest new area of service delivery for DSS is its ageing-related functions. The Administrative Orders specify responsibility over “income security and support policies and programmes for families with children, carers, the aged, people with disabilities and people in hardship”, “services for older people, including their carers”, and “policy for and promotion of active ageing”.
However, it is unlikely that the new DSS will be overwhelmed with administering procurement processes commenced in the Ageing portfolio prior to the MoG changes.
Analysis from Intermedium’s Budget IT tool reveals that the Ageing portfolio was not allocated any funding for new projects over the forward estimates.
Large-scale projects requiring ongoing support from the former Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA), including PharmCIS, the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) system and the Electronic Recording and Reporting of Controlled Drugs (ERRCD) system, are not related to the Ageing Portfolio.
A major area of responsibility retained by DSS is the provision of services for families with children, people with disabilities and carers. Prior to the change of Government, FaHCSIA had responsibility over key systems and services related to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
This responsibility will require DSS’s continued oversight over the rollout of NDIS systems and services including a $240.3 million Client Monitoring System (CMS).
Peter Qui, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) at FaHCSIA, has been appointed Manager of the Information Management and Technology Group at the newly formed DSS, according to the updated Commonwealth Government Directory.
The most pressing priority for Qui will be managing the ICT components of the MoG change.
According to the Australian Public Service Commission’s guide on Implementing Machinery of Government Changes, Qui will be required to develop an ICT strategy that, amongst other things, addresses:
- Developing programs to upload personnel data from the transferring agency’s human resources system to the gaining agency’s human resources system;
- Arranging for transfer of software (having due regard for any licensing issues) and hardware, including desktop computers, printers and file servers;
- Whether novation of contracts relating to outsourced computer services is required;
- Arranging for employees to transfer to the gaining agency’s systems and products;
- Installing cabling and outlets in new accommodation; and
- Updating gaining and transferring agencies’ internet sites to reflect changes.
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