Grants system laissez-faire with billions

Summary:An Oracle-based system used to administer grants for the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) was not up to the task of monitoring the billions of dollars which has passed through it over the years, the federal auditor-general has said.

An Oracle-based system used to administer grants for the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) was not up to the task of monitoring the billions of dollars which has passed through it over the years, the federal auditor-general has said.

The NHMRC's information systems do not adequately support the NHMRC's core business.

Auditor-general

The auditor-general's report on the council said that its core information systems left much to be desired.

"The NHMRC's information systems do not adequately support the NHMRC's core business — grant management. Its primary grant management system contains substantial data anomalies. Furthermore, the system does not accommodate the monitoring of grants financial and progress reporting requirements, or capture qualitative information from submitted grant reports."

The system had no internet interface, so that applications had to be uploaded and budget amounts entered manually, risking processing errors. The reports function was also unable to provide inaccurate reports because of the high number of duplicate records.

The original scope of the system, implemented in 2002, had been to only manage project grants, but it had expanded to record other grants programs. This had led to multiple databases, which the auditor-general did not consider ideal.

The system was unable to monitor the progress of grant applications or to flag projects for which the final reports were late. It also couldn't check if researchers held more than the allowed six grants per person. There was no way in the system to make funding contingent on projects meeting certain criteria such as ethics requirements. The system also only held one financial year, while grants could go over multiple financial years.

The NHMRC responded that it had been aware of the problem, and since 2007, had been developing a replacement system which is to go live to all grant schemes by 2010. Pilots of the new system were scheduled for this year.

The new system will be a customised version of CA's Clarity. The budget for the system to the end of 2012 is $3.3 million. CA is receiving around $3 million for the implementation while Logica will be paid just under $1.5 million for hosting the system until January 2012.

The auditor-general believed that the new system would fix many of its concerns, but recommended that the council introduce a regular data verification program, compliance controls, an interface between the new system and the council's financials, and good documentation.

Topics: Oracle, Security

About

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for t... Full Bio

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