Call for urgent investigation of $130m Wellington City IT project

Documents released reveal disagreement over the foundations of Shared IT Infrastructure Services project business case.

Prominent New Zealand blogger Ian Apperley is calling for an urgent, independent investigation into Wellington City Council's NZ$130 million Shared IT Infrastructure Services project after documents revealed apparent high-level disagreement over the project's costings and business case.

Apperley yesterday released documents he received under the Official Information Act that he said suggest the SIIP project doesn't stack up financially and had generated "heat" between the CEO's of the council's that were to be involved.

"The documents and process to date released in my opinion demand an urgent, independent, investigation into the management of the programme and the costs associated with it, which appear on the surface not to stack up," Apperley wrote.

The original business case for the project was costed at NZ$130m and needed the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and other parties to come on board to keep it cost effective, Apperley said.

However, GWRC followed others in dropping out and a 2 December email from its chief executive refutes statements made about its position in documents about to be released..

GWRC chief executive Greg Campbell said that if the contents of the documents were made public, he would be forced to defend his regional council's "position and decision making".

He wrote he was disappointed at the commentary and analysis included. It did not reflect GWRC's view, had not been shared with GWRC and did not line up with the last business case he saw.

"This will likely to have the effect of undermining the integrity of the SIIP analysis in the public domain," Campbell wrote.

"Commentary in the paper may support the programme business case story, but will not stack up."

The GWRC believed current operating costs are overstated, Apperley wrote.

"That means in plain English that the cost is more than what they are currently paying."

Campbell said in his letter GWRC could not place that burden on its ratepayers, even though it would have "dearly loved" the level of service SIIP promised to deliver.

The "real kicker", Apperley wrote is that Wellington City never needed SIIP because central government has already created a series of IT services, called Common Capabilities, that offer the same services that SIIP promised.

"We also know that several other councils have signed up to those services and are quite happy with the cost and what they are getting," he wrote.

Wellington City Council has not yet responded to a request for comment made last evening.

Dimension Data was named as the preferred supplier for the project in June. It would provide network and mobile services, integration, desktop services and ICT infrastructure management.