Ernst & Young has been commissioned to examine whether the NSW Government’s ICT strategy has delivered on its promise to find $565 million in savings across government. The firm has been contracted by the Department of Services Technology and Administration, at a cost of $97,500 to perform a high level review of the economic benefits of the People First ICT initiative.
Internal documents obtained by the NSW Opposition in April pertaining to the progress of the scheme, showed that many of the 26 projects that made up the strategy were marked as ‘red’ or ‘amber’.
In a Parliamentary submission, Chairman of the NSW Liberal Party’s WasteWatchCommittee, Jonathan O’Dea suggested that this indicated that they were behind schedule with only a few months left before the due completion date.
The Government response argued that, “the colour coding system used in the program reports is a project management tool and to guide daily workflow and is not related to program performance.”
Mr O’Dea told Intermediumthat he was confident that the Opposition’s suspicions would be reflected in the review’s findings.
“It is likely to confirm that projects are running late or over budget, and that there is waste and mismanagement that is fairly endemic.”
Some of the 26 projects initiated under the People First strategy include the Data Centre Reform plan, the apps4NSW competition and the associated NSW Data Catalogue, as well as coordinated contracting procedures such as the Contract 2020 Panel.
People Firstwas launched by then Government Chief Information Officer (GCIO) Paul Edgecumbe in 2006 as four year ICT strategic plan, and then simplified and recast as a strategy by Emanuel Rodriguez after he became GCIO in November 2007. Its aim was to produce budgetary savings and systems improvements through the consolidation of back-office ICT functions, government-wide procurement and increased inter-agency co-operation and information sharing.
Despite the review of the existing program, there is no indication from government as to when a replacement plan to People First will be issued, or how long the strategy is now intended to run.
The GCIO web site has stated for some time that ‘People First has identified and substantially achieved over half a billion dollars of savings over four years’. It is believed that these savings have been made predominantly from telecommunications procurement reform and were calculated by comparing the prices the telecommunications suppliers were charging agencies under individual contracts with the prices charged under the new whole of government telecommunications contracts and computing the net saving of avoided charges.
The major question therefore will be on how much saving has been generated by the other components of the plan/strategy over the four years. Major reforms to shared services are gathering momentum following the consolidation of agencies into Super Departments. This was announced in conjunction with the 2009-10 Budget, but no specific funding was forthcoming in that budget to facilitate the machinery of government changes and this was also the case in the 2010-11 budget. The shared services moves would as yet, be generating more costs than savings.
The GCIO website says the final report will be released later this year. This is understood to be once it has been accepted by Cabinet.
According to the review’s terms of reference, it will include an examination and verification of the identified savings resulting from each of the 8 People Firstprograms over the period 2006-07 to 2009-10. It will also look to verify calculations of projected benefits extending from 2010-11 to 2012-13. These achievements will be measured against the total costs of the programs and will be used to evaluate the overall return generated by the scheme.