The Gillard Labor Government has said it will raid almost half a billion in Gershon savings earmarked specifically for IT projects, saying that IT departments will now have to bid for money if they need it for initiatives.
"The Gillard Labor Government will also remove funding currently quarantined under the Gershon reforms for information and communications technology (ICT) spending across government, saving $447.5 million over four years." The Updated Net Budget Impact of Election Promises press release stated on the ALP news site last Saturday, as first reported by the AustralianIT.
Back in August 2008, Minister for Finance and Deregulation Lindsay Tanner commissioned British efficiency expert Sir Peter Gershon to do an analysis of Australian Government ICT projects and business as usual spending.
Several months later Gershon presented his reform recommendations, which were subsequently approved by the government to create an ICT Reform Program.
Over five years, $1.4 billion in savings were expected to be made by following the review recommendations. Agencies had to find savings within their IT departments, but were to be rewarded with half of the money saved for new initiatives.
Around $460 million in savings has already been made, according to the department, and $230 million has been set out for IT projects. However, the $900 odd million in savings that are yet to be made under the program will not be handled the same: IT departments will not be guaranteed the $477 million that was to have been their reward for cutting costs.
Instead, IT departments will have to bid for money. "Going forward, departments will now have to bid in the budget process for additional resources to fund ICT spending to ensure it is properly scrutinised against other government priorities. We will retain the Secretaries Committee on ICT to promote the whole-of-government agenda and drive improvements in the quality of projects coming forward," the government said.
The Coalition is also threatening to hurt the ICT Industry if elected. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has announced that he will scrap the the National Broadband Network — a move that Minister for Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy Stephen Conroy has called "reckless".
Abbott has also said that a Coalition government will abort the $467 million government e-health records project and the $2.4 billion school laptop project if elected.