It’s unusual, possibly unprecedented for the Finance Minister to take five minutes on a high profile current affairs program to talk about IT. Speaking on the ABC’s AM program this morning, Lindsay Tanner took the opportunity to reiterate that the Government's 'razor gang' is targeting IT spending with proposed cuts worth hundreds of millions of dollar a year.
He said that in the second wave of cuts (after the May budget) he wants to make changes to the way the Government purchases goods and services. He blamed the previous government for allowing procurement to get out of hand, describing it as haphazard and inefficient, pointing out that the government had not mobilized its significant buying power.
During the interview, Tanner focused almost exclusively on the IT sector, where he says he’s expecting to achieve savings in the hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
But he does not expect changes to happen overnight. The Minister indicated that change would happen slowly. He said, “We're not going to suddenly go away and scrap a whole lot of existing IT systems and put in a whole lot of others”.
Tanner identified several areas that would be addressed by the razor gang. Highlighting the need to reduce duplication, he mentioned that in Federal agencies there were 164 systems for processing grant applications, 800 individual websites, and 8 different secure networks.
Other issues on the Tanner “hit list” are poor ICT project management, and leveraging the Government’s buying power to achieve savings.
During the interview, the Minister reiterated the Government’s plan to adopt a more centralised approach to procurement.
He also mentioned the need to strengthen the core of highly specialized skills within the public sector that could be made available to individual agencies.