'No frills' Qld Budget delivers for Health payroll and robots

The ongoing move to fix the Queensland Health payroll system resulted in it getting the largest IT spend in the 2013-14 Queensland Budget.

In what Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls has described as a "no-frills, no-nonsense Budget", the Queensland government has provided close to AU$400 million over the next four years to operate the troubled Queensland Health payroll system.

The Liberal-National government outlined in its 2013-14 budget delivered today that AU$384.3 million will be spent over the next four years to operate, maintain, and enhance the payroll and rostering system.

The failed system was introduced in 2010, and resulted in thousands of staff being underpaid, overpaid, or not paid at all. The system has been the subject of an inquiry involving members of the former Queensland government, including former premier Anna Bligh, as well as the contractor, IBM. The government has estimated that the total cost for the system for taxpayers will be AU$1.2 billion.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg announced last month that an automated system to recoup overpayments made to staff will be put in place in July.

The inquiry into the payroll debacle itself is expected to cost taxpayers AU$5 million, according to the Budget documents.

Queensland Health will also receive AU$135.1 million in funding to continue the rollout of IT equipment to support e-health and the national health reform agenda. AU$27.6 million of this will be for the e-health administrative support systems for an integrated electronic medical record.

There will be AU$30.9 million spread out over the next four years to establish a rural telehealth service for residents to get access to emergency staff and clinicians in hospitals across the state via telehealth services 24 hours per day.

The Queensland Police service will get AU$22.3 million for IT projects, including AU$14.5 million for a technology refresh program and AU$4.8 million to support the public safety secure fixed data network that connects the police with the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, and the Department of Community Safety.

The Department of Agriculture will receive AU$3 million over three years to develop farm robotics technology with the Queensland University of Technology.

"[It] will reinvigorate productivity growth through increased production and reduced farm input costs. This will continue to support Queensland's world-class research and development capabilities in robotics, and its innovative dynamic farm sector," the Budget documents state.

Other IT spending in the Queensland Budget includes:

  • The Stanwell Corporation will receive AU$35.9 million in 2013-14 for IT projects.

  • In education, in addition to the funding for tablets for students announced on Tuesday morning, the government will also spend AU$2.5 million to upgrade IT systems at the Gold Coast TAFE.

  • The Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority will use most of its AU$7.1 million in 2013-14 on hardware and software upgrades.

  • The Department of Natural Resources and Mines will spend AU$3.8 million of a total AU$10.7 million for the Streamlining the Mining Tenure Approval Process technology platform.

  • The Queensland Building Services Authority will receive AU$1.9 million to replace legacy IT systems.

  • The government will spend AU$780,000 for planning upgrades to the Land and Cadastral IT systems.

  • AU$1 million will be spent on the development and enhancement of the Queensland waste data system.

  • The Crime and Misconduct Commission will spend AU$710,000 on computer replacement.

The Budget also saw a drop in the income for the government's IT provider CITEC, reduced from AU$170 million in 2012-13 to AU$164 million in 2013-14. In the last financial year, the government closed the Identity, Directory, and Email Service (IDES) project, and progressed with IT and datacentre consolidation plans.

The government noted in the Budget that CITEC would be significantly impacted by the audit report's recommendations for the government to cease using CITEC as its shared service provider and divest the business in the next two years.

To do this, the government said it will need to develop an implementation plan to transition CITEC services to the new cloud-based delivery models.

CITEC's headcount is expected to be reduced from 505 full-time employees in 2012-13 to 430 full-time employees in 2013-14.

The Queensland government attributed the decrease in expected revenue in the last financial year as government agencies held off on IT expenditure while awaiting the outcome of the IT audit.