IBM system not proven: Qld payroll inquiry

Summary:The inquiry into Queensland Health's payroll system has heard that the winning IBM system was not verified to work before winning the contract.

Senior bureaucrats didn't check whether a proposed system would actually work before signing off on a contract to replace Queensland Health's payroll system, an inquiry has heard.

Darrin Bond, a former project director in the government's IT arm CorpTech, said a push for technology giant IBM to sign the contract meant the Queensland government didn't have time to properly assess the proposal.

IBM's tender bid to run Queensland Health's complicated payroll system was about AU$100 million cheaper than its nearest rival.

Thousands of public servants were underpaid, overpaid, or unpaid after IBM's flawed computer system was introduced in March 2010 by the former Labor government, with the entire fiasco costing taxpayers an estimated AU$1.2 billion.

The third day of witness testimonies at the commission of inquiry on Wednesday has again heard of a "sense of urgency" to adopt the IBM system.

Bond told the inquiry that IBM's offer appeared attractive, although there was no time to verify its claims that the SAP and WorkBrain modules it proposed using could work together effectively.

"There was a degree of confidence, but not 100 per cent," he said. "There was a strong push to have the contract signed by a particular date.

"Ideally, [verification] would be done before the contract was signed, but the push to have the contract signed overrode that, so we made it a condition of the contract."

Queensland Health payroll executive director Phillip Hood said the sense of urgency came because the previous LATTICE system was losing its vendor support from human resources company Talent2.

"I was uncomfortable with having to support a non-vendor solution, given the complexity of the LATTICE payroll solution" said Hood, who was CorpTech's deputy executive director at the time.

"When the solution becomes non-vendor supported, the total risk for that solution moves ... to the Queensland government."

Hood said he recommended IBM's rival tender maker, Accenture, as preferred vendor during the evaluation process, but changed his recommendation to put IBM at level pegging.

Under persistent questioning from counsel assisting the inquiry, Peter Flanagan, Hood maintained that he had "no real recollection" of why he changed his evaluation.

Hood denied suggestions that private contractor and former IBM staffer Terry Burns urged him to re-evaluate. Bond made the claim in earlier evidence.

The inquiry before Commissioner Richard Chesterman continues.

Topics: Government : AU, IBM

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