IT boards and committees face axe in mid-year Budget update

A number of IT boards and committees in the Australian Department of Finance are being abolished or merged as part of the government's bid to reduce the size of government as the Budget deficit grows.

IT advisory boards within the Australian Department of Finance face the axe, but the government has promised that agencies will still have input in whole-of-government IT decision making.

In the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) released by Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann on Monday, the government reported a further decline in tax receipts of AU$31.6 billion, meaning the government debt is now expected to reach AU$499 billion in 2023-24.

In the 2014-15 financial year, the government is projecting a deficit of AU$40.4 billion.

As a result, the government is implementing a number of "small government" measures that will see the total number of government agencies reduced by 175.

Up for the axe will be the Secretaries' Information and Communications Technologies Governance Board, and the Cross-Jurisdictional CIOs committee in the Department of Finance. The government will also merge the CIO committee and CIO forum, but it has stressed that agencies will still have input in the Australian government's move to a whole-of-government approach to IT policy.

"The Department of Finance will take direct responsibility for ensuring that government bodies have appropriate input into whole-of-government ICT policy, and will support the management of cross-jurisdictional ICT issues," the MYEFO document states (PDF).

In the Department of Communications, the Telework Advisory Panel will also be abolished.

The Department of Finance is considering selling off the Intra-Government Communications Network (ICON), funding a scoping study for the optimal method and timing of a sale.

There is some funding for government tech projects, however, including AU$37.4 million for the establishment of the eSafety commissioner, who will be responsible for ensuring online content that is deemed to be bullying of Australian children is swiftly removed from social media sites.

There has also been AU$21.1 million set aside for the establishment of an online platform for the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results for parents and teachers. AU$3.5 million has been set aside to support the introduction of computer coding classes in Australian schools, and AU$500,000 as seed funding for a pilot education facility based on the US Pathways in Technology project.

The government announced that it plans on increasing the statutory life of in-house software acquired or developed for use by taxpayers from four to five years for software installed on or after July 1, 2015. This means that depreciation claims as part of taxation will change, and will add AU$420 million to government revenue over forward estimates.

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