It is the prerogative of an incoming government to re-structure portfolios and agencies to reflect its policy agenda.
Machinery of Government changes have significant impacts on information technology provisioning within agencies. When agency functions are altered, both client business systems and corporate systems can be impacted. Duplicated systems, unmet requirements, and redundant shared services can all quickly become issues.
The office of shadow Special Minister of State (SMOS) Bronwyn Bishop has advised Intermedium that the Opposition is not yet in a position to make a statement on its machinery of government plans, and that any announcements would only come after the election if the Coalition does in fact win. Despite this, the composition of the shadow ministry offers several signals of what might transpire if the Coalition wins the September 2013 Federal Election, as it is widely expected to do.
We already know that under a Tony Abbott Prime Ministership the Indigenous Affairs functions currently within the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) would be transferred to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
“There will be, in effect, a prime minister for Aboriginal affairs,” Abbott announced, saying that the shift would elevate the priority given to indigenous issues.
A Department of Families, Housing and Human Services?
Kevin Andrews is presently the Coalition’s spokesperson for Families, Housing and Human Services, a portfolio that may foreshadow a post-election merger of the remaining FaHCSIA responsibilities into the far bigger Department of Human Services (DHS).
FaHCSIA’s current annual external (non-staff) expenditure on ICT, as captured in Intermedium’s GovFacts database, is $40.6 million across its 2,916 full time equivalent (FTE) staff. The DHS, with 32,274 FTE staff spends somewhere in the vicinity of $830 million per year on both internal and external ICT costs, according to its Chief Information Officer Gary Sterrenberg.
Significantly, any merger would almost certainly see responsibility for a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) monitoring system – with current funding of $240 million – move to the DHS’s ICT Division.
Education and employment split?
The Coalition’s shadow ministry sees responsibility for education and employment split between Shadow Minister for Education, Apprenticeships and Training Christopher Pyne and Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Eric Abetz. The responsibilities of the two ministers could potentially be serviced out of the one department. However if there was an organisational split within the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) it would have a knock-on effect through the ICT and corporate services functions of a number of additional agencies, as DEEWR currently supplies shared services to the Office of the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate, Safe Work Australia and the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency.
As recorded in GovFacts, DEEWR currently employs 3,593 FTE staff, and spends an estimated $16.4 million on external ICT goods and services each year.
Goodbye Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities?
The Coalition looks inclined to consolidate all of its environmental concerns into a single portfolio. Currently, Greg Hunt is the shadow minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage.
This is likely to mean the end of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC) as we know it today, with its 2,235 FTE staff and $18 million estimated annual ICT spend (see GovFacts).
A new department could also be expected to subsume the functions of the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (DCCEE), which has recently been added to the already comma-heavy Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.
DCCEE is presently part of a chain of Federal Government shared services MOUs. It delivers ICT shared services to the Clean Energy Regulator, and receives them from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet under a deal worth roughly $10 million per year.
A final thought about the SMOS
If Bishop is to retain the SMOS portfolio into Government, she would become the Minister in charge of the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO), and in turn the Federal Government’s ICT Strategy.
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