Queensland's Health Minister Geoff Wilson yesterday declared a tentative victory in the state health department's battle to tame its troubled payroll system, labelling the platform "stabilised" and noting that further improvements were being made. The department also seems to have buried the hatchet with IBM.
The payroll system went into meltdown in early 2010 after being introduced in March, with a large number of Queensland Health staff receiving little or no pay for some pay periods. The SAP-based platform, built with the assistance of IBM, serves some 78,000 of the department's staff every fortnight, with the total payroll amount being $210 million.
In a statement released yesterday, Wilson described the new system as having been "stabilised" one year on from its go-live date, but said there was further work to be done.
"Our staff have been through a very difficult time, it is never good enough if even one employee doesn't receive the wages they are entitled to," he said. "I know 2010 was a tough year, but I want to reassure our staff that 2011 will be different. That's why we will not rest until we have an efficient and effective payroll system in place for our staff."
The Queensland State Government had been considering cancelling the IBM contract, threatening mid last year to withhold payment. Premier Anna Bligh and Health Minister Paul Lucas had blamed IBM with the project's failings.
"The auditor-general's report clearly identifies failings on the part of contracted provider IBM," Bligh said at the time.
However, IBM Australia's new managing director, Andrew Stevens, told ZDNet Australia that the payroll stoush between his company and Queensland Health had been put in the past.
Stevens said that he had personally travelled north to meet with Queensland Health and defend IBM's record.
"I've been to Queensland, I've talked to the people there. We delivered a high quality, technical solution and we completed our contract as per arranged," he said.
"It's behind us and behind Queensland."
Late last year, the government successfully implemented a localised payroll model, as well as a personalised service for anyone experiencing payroll systems.
Wilson noted that the government had begun implementing recommendations from the November 2010 PricewaterhouseCoopers review of the Queensland Government's shared services plan, as well as the 18-month blueprint unveiled around the same date for finalising the payroll project.
"This was about delivering an enhanced system appropriate for the 21st century with all of the extra services and features our staff deserve, and I'm pleased to say we are well on track in delivering this," he said.
In the three months since the blueprint was released, system improvements had reduced staff payroll inquiries by more than 80 per cent since the system's live date in March 2010.
The outstanding payroll adjustments backlog had been eliminated, he added, and the number of staff who had received incorrect pay and were seeking interim payments had gone down by more than 90 per cent, hitting 243 in January. The total number of staff reporting no pay at all was down to a fraction of a per cent, about 0.04 per cent (31) in the last payroll cycle.
"In late November 2010, the auditor-general also updated the parliament on payroll stabilisation and found that 'significant improvements have been made' by Queensland Health to improve its payroll system," Wilson added. "The auditor-general also found that these efforts 'have resulted in a declining trend in no pay enquiries and outstanding transactions'.
"As a government we won't rest until our health staff have the modern, efficient and effective payroll system that they deserve. We are well on the way to delivering this, and I am committed to continuing to drive this improvement for our staff."