Australian Parliament looks to fill AU$2m desktop funding gap

The Department of Parliamentary Services is looking at ways to meet a AU$2 million shortfall in funding required to roll out desktop upgrades.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Australian Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) will need to find an extra AU$2 million to complete a desktop rollout to Windows 7, secretary Carol Mills has said.

Recently appointed CIO Eija Seittenranta told ZDNet last month that since taking over the responsibility for desktops not only within the Department of Parliamentary Services, the House of Representatives, and the Senate, but also members' electorate offices, the department has decided to roll out Windows 7 to all 4,000 desktops. As of January, this had been done within Parliament House in Canberra, with the electorate office rollout up next.

Speaking before Senate Estimates hearings yesterday, Mills said that one of the difficulties with completing the upgrade is that when DPS took over responsibility for IT from the Department of Finance, the department didn't receive the same level of funding.

"The challenge that we have identified is not that the Department of Finance did not hand over an equivalent amount of money to that which they were spending," she said. "One of the challenges for us is the move from leased to purchased equipment, which means that rather than a smooth leasing fee, we have a large upfront fee in replacing equipment with a capital spend."

Mills said that after surveying the existing equipment, a number of the desktops were not able to be upgraded to Windows 7, and had to be replaced.

"Now, that is not necessarily a problem that the finance department was fully aware of; they were not managing that system ... we have a funding gap of around AU$2 million to do a full rollout, and that is why we are doing it on a priority basis," she said. "We will roll everything out, but we have had to do it over two financial years rather than one, which would have been more desirable."

Mills said that a group of departmental CIOs met to talk about how to meet the funding gap, and will make recommendations to the Presiding Offices and the special minister of state about the funding.

Mills said the "one-stop shop" for parliamentary IT will be up and running by July, and a draft IT strategy will be ready in the first half of this year, with the major components of that strategy being implemented around the time of the federal election in September.

In September last year, Liberal backbencher Alby Schultz claimed that his calendar may have been "hacked" because security settings in Outlook allowed appointments in his calendar to be viewed by others.

In response, DPS has now been resetting mailbox settings on a weekly basis, Seittenranta said.

"There is still the ability for individual users of the Microsoft products to change the default settings on an individual basis, for example to give other staff in their offices access. Some of those settings, if used incorrectly, can open broader access, so the purpose of the weekly resetting is to take the default back," she said.

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