DIAC CIO: IT wages nearly forced us to 'down tools'

A recent AU$25 million lifeline to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) last month saved its AU$496 million tech overhaul from tanking, according to DIAC CIO Bob Correll.

A recent AU$25 million lifeline to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) last month saved its AU$496 million tech overhaul from tanking, according to DIAC CIO Bob Correll.

The Systems for People initiative kicked off in mid-2006 to address shortcomings with DIAC's record-keeping that led to the wrongful detention of Cornelia Rau and Vivian Alvarez, however, since its commencement, the program has been beleaguered by skills shortages.

Halfway into DIAC's four-year project, the department realised it had been gazumped by Canberra's tight labour market, forcing it to seek AU$25 million in extra capital funding to avert having to "down tools".

"The reason for that is that the first year of the program coincided with a very significant growth in labour costs," Correll told ZDNet.com.au.

"We experienced 22 per cent growth in labour costs and so when we did the sums at year two, it became clear we would have to down tools about two-thirds of the way through the year if we didn't seek upfront capital funding."

Correll said Centrelink's IT refresh program and the Australian Tax Office's Change Program drove competition for already scarce Siebel software and Java developer skills. The impact of those skills shortages has affected DIAC worse than other departments.

A shortage of Siebel skills was also blamed for the additional AU$6.7 million required by DIAC in March last year. The extra funding gave CSC a small share of the Systems for People work, dominated by IBM, DIAC's strategic partner for the overhaul.

Correll said he doesn't expect further additions to funding will be required in the future. "All projections show that funding looks pretty much right," he said.

So far the Systems for People program has delivered five major updates, according to Correll. The updates include its detention portal, border security portal, and a general skilled migration portal.

"Also, we're introducing a new generic portal handling all different types of visas. That will start to be used for a wider range, including the 457 visas and that's got a first week of August time frame," he added.

DIAC extends CSC AU$110 million mainframe contract

DIAC this week signed a two-year extension with CSC to manage its mainframe and mid-range computing needs. The deal is worth AU$55 million per year, and represents a quarter of the AU$200 million per year it spends on its existing systems outside the Systems for People overhaul.

DIAC recently requested AU$12 million in funding from its 2009-2010 budget to be brought forward to meet constraints affecting its existing systems.

CSC last year lost DIAC's desktop contract to Unisys, worth AU$140 million over four years. Correll said the decision to drop CSC from its desktop contract has allowed it to pursue a multi-vendor outsourcing strategy.

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