ICT procurement in NSW could enter a new era of transparency if the State Government takes action on 41 recommendations handed down by the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
While the NSW Government is not due to respond to the inquiry into the procurement and management of ICT services in the NSW public sector until November 2013, the Committee’s focus on improving the visibility of ICT functions neatly aligns with the message that Macquarie Street has been trying to send.
The Committee has advised that the progress of major ICT projects should be made public through the ProcurePoint website and that the contract reporting threshold for agencies be lowered from $150,000 to cover everything over $100,000.
And the application of transparency should not stop with the Government, says the report’s authors.
Suppliers to the NSW Government could find themselves rated on their performance if the Government goes ahead with recommended changes to the ICT Services Scheme.
A proposed performance management system is likely to take its cues from the Federal Government’s agency feedback model used for its data centre as-a-service multi-use list. Under the Federal model supplier performance is judged on the quality of service, responsiveness, understanding of agency requirements and value for money. A ratings scale ranging from “did not meet expectations” to “exceeded expectations” could be applied in NSW.
If the Government decides to go ahead with a ratings system, performance information would be made available to agencies through the NSWBuy web portal.
A change in the way project cost estimates are developed may also be on the horizon for NSW agencies, with the report finding that inadequate initial estimations are “the largest contributor to project failure” in the State Government. It uncovered an overall tendency to underestimate the costs of major projects and inflate demand forecasts.
The report also proposes a greater use of benchmarking data to develop projects costs and timelines informed by outcomes of comparable projects in other States and countries.
The benefits of cloud computing were another focus of the inquiry. The Public Accounts Committee has suggested that Treasury review its current framework for ICT funding and implement a new model that recognises the potential cost savings offered by as-a-service models of technology procurement.
A number of cloud-based ICT projects are already underway in NSW, including the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services’ $14 million ERP consolidation on a software-as-a-service basis.
A whole-of-NSW-Government cloud policy is due by the end of 2013.
The report also recommends that cloud purchasing skills be included in the Public Service Commission’s capability framework, which tracks the knowledge and specialist abilities of NSW public sector staff across a range of categories.
The PAC recommends that DFS implement a sector wide, mandatory project management framework, giving it the power to take action against non-compliance or poor project governance by agencies. Although DFS already has a number of relevant guidelines available for project managers, their use is neither mandatory nor monitored at this stage.
The report is the result of an inquiry established in August 2012 into issues raised by the Auditor-General ICT procurement and project management in the NSW Government. The inquiry was headed by Liberal MP Jonathan O’Dea.
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