While some measures announced in the NSW mini-budget handed down on 11 November will take up to a year to come into effect, in the ICT domain, the impacts have been felt immediately.
The Better Government Access Program, which was project managed by the NSW Government Chief Information Office (GCIO) is already well through its decommissioning just one week after the mini-budget, with the termination of a number of contractors on Friday 15 November, and finalisation of recruitment to a number of permanent positions now uncertain.
Under the GCIO organisation structure, the Better Government Access Program, headed by Mahajan Padmanathan (General Manager, Front Line Services) had been allocated 22 positions, almost 20% of the GCIO’s total headcount. Padmanathan’s responsibilities have effectively been halved, with only the Government Licencing project remaining. This will almost certainly lead to other changes within GCIO. With such reduced responsibility, maintenance of his senior role (SES level 4) and salary will be hard to justify.
The NSW mini-budget indicates savings of $34m in recurring and capital costs over the next three years as a result of the axing of the program.
Now in his GCIO role for just on a year, Emanuel Rodriguez has experienced a wild ride, having first won major new funding and positions for a pared down and more focused People First ICT Plan, only to see this significant project disappear. Like his predecessor, Paul Edgecombe, he is now faced with the fact that the Director General who recruited him to his role, John Lee, having moved on, potentially making it more difficult to argue his case into the central policy and funding agencies.
Rodriguez is also likely to be struggling against the long entrenched cynicism at the NSW political and senior bureaucratic levels about the real value to government administration of IT. This cynicism is driven in large measure (even today) by the bad after taste of Y2K (strong perceptions of fear mongering and profiteering by suppliers), the perceived lack of delivery on promises by suppliers and the perceived tendency of suppliers to introduce unexpected and costly scope variations.