The NSW Auditor-General has advised the Department of Human Services to adopt formal project management procedures for all future technology initiatives in the recently released 2010 Financial Report to Parliament on Human Services and Technology, following the discontinuation of a major ICT project at NSW Community Services.
In 2006 the then Department of Community Services (DoCS) began work on a project to establish an Electronic Records Data Management (ERDM) System. Work on the ERDM system was suspended in 2008, and in June 2010 it was discontinued at a cost of $5.2 million to the Department of Human Services.
In the report, NSW Auditor-General Peter Achterstraat recommended that the NSW Human Services Super Department adopt, “formal project governance structures and project management procedures for all Community Services’ major IT projects,” to prevent a repeat of the ERDM scenario.
If Human Services were to follow the lead of their Federal counterparts in this area, they would most likely look toward the Portfolio Program Project Management Maturity Model (P3M3) and the PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) methodologies, which have been developed by the UK Government’s Office of Government Commerce (OGC).
Recommendation 5.2.1 of the Review suggested that agency capability could be improved by “implementing a common methodology for assessing agency capability based on self-assessment and periodic independent audit”.
The P3M3 and PRINCE2 methodologies were endorsed by the 2008 Gershon Review into the Australian Government’s use of ICT as being the most appropriate methodologies for use in Australian Government agencies.
In response to this recommendation, the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) will require that all Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) agencies with an annual ICT spend over $2 million conduct P3M3 capability assessments twice yearly by 2012.
AGIMO has also set up a Panel of ICT consultants who are qualified in this field from which agencies can procure these assessment services.
However, it is also possible that the Department of Human Services won’t act on the Auditor-General’s advice.
The Department has indicated to Mr Achterstraat that they believe that existing arrangements are sufficient. “Management is of the view that it has appropriate governance structures in place for all projects,” says the Auditor General’s report.
The Department claims that the discontinuation of the ERDM project was due to a shift in priorities after the tabling of the Wood Report into child protection services, rather than project governance failures.
It wouldn’t be the first time Community Services had ignored a recommendation from the Auditor General regarding their ICT activity.
The latest report also asks the agency to address a recommendation made more than two years ago that access to the Key Information Directory System (KiDS) be tightened for security reasons.
Intermedium’sBudget IT tool estimates that The Department of Human Services, which includes Community Services, has an ICT operating budget of $72 million in 2010-11. It was allocated $50.2 million worth of capital funding for ICT projects in the latest budget.