A New South Wales government project to simplify licence processes used by various government agencies is nine years behind schedule and $23 million over budget, according to the NSW Auditor-General.
Some agency personnel believe they are not obliged to meet implementation
Department of Services, Technology and
The project was intended to replace over 40 different licensing
systems with standardised systems for over 20 agencies which issued
licences other than driver's licences: for example, recreational
fishing, liquor, firearms or even dairy farming licences. There are
over 300 different licence types.
The project started in 2001 under the aegis of the Office of
Information Technology in the Department of Information Technology
and Management (now part of the Department of Services, Technology
and Administration), with a deadline for completion of 2005. Its
budget was $63 million.
It is now expected to be completed in 20013/2014 and its budget
has blown out to $86 million. The gross benefits have also been
scaled down, which has seen the net benefits of the project dip
from $69 million to $19 million.
"It is now nine years late, $23 million over budget, and will
return less than one third of the original estimated net savings,"
NSW Auditor-General Peter Achterstraat said in a statement.
The new systems have been implemented in six agencies so far,
replacing 15 out of 42 legacy systems and consolidating 102 licence
types to 55. The agencies — the Departments of Fair Trading,
Primary Industries, Environment and Climate Change and Community
services as well as the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing and NSW
Health — are responsible for 1.7 million licences out of the
around four million licences intended to be touched by the project.
This number has inflated since the project first started, with only around two million
licences initially planned for inclusion in the project.
Despite the ambitious scope change, the original
business case hadn't specified whether agency participation in the
project would be mandatory. This lack of communication meant that
agencies felt that they had a choice as to whether they wanted to adopt it or not.
The agencies' reluctance to adopt the systems was one of the
reasons given by the Department of Services, Technology and
Administration for not succeeding to get the project completed on
time. "Emotional attachment to legacy systems ... some agency
personnel believe they are not obliged to meet implementation
timeline/schedule targets ... averse to risk and change ... higher duties
allowances for some project staff reduces incentive to go-live,"
the department listed in its reasons for not succeeding.
The Auditor-General also believed that the time frame had been
overly optimistic to start with. In fact, the development of the
system by the external service provider was not completed until
2005, the year the project had been expected to finish.
Despite the delays and cost blowouts which beset the program,
the Auditor-General found that many benefits had been realised,
such as reducing red tape and reducing costs for agencies —
by replacing legacy systems agencies have avoided $51 million in
tendering, system replacement and maintenance costs.
He recommended that the Department of Services, Technology and Administration
clarify which agencies had to adopt the systems, discover how much
exactly the rest of the project was going to cost, improve risk
management and develop better measures to follow project progress.
He also called on the agency to publicly report its progress each
The department responded, agreeing that the original time frames
underestimated the scope of reform. It said that governance
structures had already been put in place after early slips in the
schedule and that these changes should address the underlying
problems that hindered the project.