An examination of the NSW mini-budget handed down by Treasurer Rozendaal on 11 November reveals ICT opportunities and points to further moves to shared service arrangements.
The mini-budget has so far received little if any positive press. At a headline level, there has been coverage of NSW Police which will see its ICT program curtailed heavily (by $15m per annum for the next 4 years, including the remainder of 2008-09), and the Department of Commerce, which will see major cuts to its Better Government Access Project. Apart from these announcements, there appear to have been very few major cuts to existing ICT projects.
Cynics might say this is because there was very little in the existing budgets to cut.
However, Intermedium's analysis suggests the Government will need to ‘spend money to save money’ in a number of instances. Intermedium expects new opportunities will be generated by the savings measures, and some of these will be very substantial projects.
The mini-budget has highlighted a number of areas of savings where there will have to be ICT enablement to ensure the savings occur.
At the Whole of Government level, there is a plan to ‘establish One Stop Shops at up to 129 motor registries to provide customer and business services for the whole of government’. These One Stop Shops are expected to bring in savings of $45m over the four years 2008-09 to 2011-12. The establishment of such services implies additional hardware, networks, security and potential systems integration work.
It is not clear how the One Stop Shop initiatives relate to the Better Government Access Program, which is one of the NSW Government’s People First projects managed by the GCIO in the NSW Department of Commerce. The Department of Commerce is expected to offer savings totalling $34.9m in the four years 2008-09 to 2011-12 due to both reduced recurrent and reduced capital costs associated with the Better Government Access Program.
The NSW Department of Community Services (which did not receive any ICT-related capital investment funding in the June budget), is now expected to ‘commence a high priority project to improve effectiveness and efficiency, including changes to the client information system to release caseworker time to deal with more cases; core system redesign; and a new management system to support reform in purchasing services from non-government organizations’. These projects are estimated to cost $9.230m in 2008-09.
A clear conclusion to be drawn from the mini-budget initiatives is both shared services and the clustering of agencies are starting to gather further momentum as initiatives, after being hinted at for years. This follows the quiet introduction of Service First in the Department of Commerce earlier this year.
An example of the shared services initiatives in the budget is the ‘integration of the corporate services functions of Ambulance NSW and other health entities to reduce corporate overheads’. While this is expected to achieve savings of only $0.2m per annum, it points to a trend that is clearly there – the Government is determined to reduce duplication, big or small.
The Area Health Services also appear set to lose more of the residual autonomy they were left after the major reorganisation three years ago, with reforms to procurement of items such as medical equipment and the engagement and management of locums and non permanent staff, both of which may have ICT support spin-offs.