THE federal Government's bid to slash its $6 billion annual ICT spend initially sidestepped a hurdle as there was no knowledge base that detailed the systems, risks and projects in play, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said.
“We had an incomplete picture of the risks, both of the service delivery and to the bottom line, of the government’s budget by a continued reliance on legacy ICT systems across the many silos of government,” Mr Tanner said.
Mr Tanner's office started pulling together this information late last year in anticipation of the Gershon Review.
British efficiency expert Peter Gershon has since been hired to conduct an exhaustive audit, agency by agency, and identify ways to slash costs while delivering better services. Mr Tanner said that despite the setback, primarily due to the legacy of the Howard Government, it had a clearer picture of the Government's ICT operations, and Sir Peter's report was still on track to be delivered at the end of August. The Government is considering forming a single group of IT executives to ensure all agency projects are successfully implemented. The group would advise agencies on project implementation to prevent funding blowouts, such as the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s Systems for People project, which recently required a $37.2 million injection. “We need the right information to be able to determine the cost benefit ratio to continue with our current approach to ICT upgrades. We’ll be happy to reform our procurement arrangement to achieve this. “It could be something like a single unit charged with planning and monitoring ICT systems upgrades across government could provide these sort of capability that we need,” he said during his keynote speech at the CeBit exhibition in Sydney this morning. Mr Tanner also flagged the Government’s Web 2.0 intentions and said it would turn to these technologies to facilitate greater citizen participation in policy making. “In the coming months we will open up an area of policy review to online consultation and engagement through a trial government consultation blog,” said Mr Tanner, who claims to be one of the first ministers to blog and broadcast on YouTube. “This blog will give the online citizenry (a chance) to interact with the bureaucracy and make contributions to the government policy and review. I’m currently working through the numerous issues associated with such a trial.”