Qld govt email will fail to deliver: report

Due to a series of implementation delays, the Queensland Government's long-running email consolidation program will only service 25 per cent of the users that were originally planned, the state's auditor-general has found.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Due to a series of implementation delays, the Queensland Government's long-running email consolidation program will only service 25 per cent of the users that were originally planned, the state's auditor-general has found.

The Identity, Directory and Email Services program (IDES) was first announced in July 2008 as part of a widespread ICT reform in the Queensland Government. The plan was to move 80,000 Queensland government email addresses onto one Microsoft Exchange 2007 system. The government had estimated that it could save up to $123 million over 10 years with the consolidation.

In an Information Systems Governance and Security report (PDF) tabled in Queensland parliament today, the state's Auditor-General Glenn Poole has found that, in the almost three years since the program was first announced, there were significant delays due to a number of events including a re-jig of the Queensland Government in 2009 from 22 departments to 13 and the disastrous 2011 Queensland floods.

The floods have prevented a number of agencies to migrate to the IDES program, Poole said, and as a result just four agencies will be migrated by the December 2012 completion date.

This means that just 20,000 of the originally planned 81,000 users will be on the IDES system by the end of 2012, which means revenues from agencies will be under what was expected.

"This is approximately 25 per cent of the number of users that were expected to be migrated by that date. This will result in the program incurring further losses until the number of departments taking up the solution increases," Poole said. "It is estimated that the program will need to deliver services to approximately 81,000 users to break even."

According to Poole, CITEC — the shared services organisation overseeing the program — will need to oversee further migration of other agencies to the IDES program as part of its "business as usual" operations. Poole warned that lengthy delays in projects, such as the IDES program, will leave the project open to the risk of change, which might require a re-jig of the entire plan.

The total cost of the program so far had been $34.2 million — much lower than the $89.1 million forecast for this point in time, but no revenue has been collected, the auditor-general noted. The IDES business case had projected that $56.6 million in revenue should have been received by 30 June 2011.

Poole also found that lengthy delays for the new Queensland Driver's Licence program contributed to a blow-out in the budget for the program, which is on track to deliver smart card licences to Queensland drivers by December 2011. The projected budget from 2009 of $84 million has since gone up to $143.8 million.

The auditor-general found that Queensland Health had progressed well with implementing improvements in its payroll system after it was plagued with problems last year. Queensland Health had written off some $1.3 million in overpayments to staff of $200 or less, but the report found that as of 29 May 2011 some $43 million in salary overpayments were still outstanding, while $9.2 million of emergency payments were still to be paid back.

Poole noted that staff will be informed of the amounts they owe and the process to repay it by 30 June 2011, and that the department will establish a call centre to assist staff with repayment issues.

The auditor-general suggested that Queensland Health should look to reduce payroll staff numbers back to the levels before the failed implementation of the new system in order to scale back costs.

"Under the Lattice payroll system, the ratio of the number of payroll staff to process transactions to Queensland Health employees was approximately 1:160. Under the current system, the ratio is approximately 1:90," he said.

"The strategic direction of the payroll should continue to be reassessed and complexities addressed over time to decrease the number of staff required to process payroll transactions."

Poole also recommended that the Queensland Government improve its whole-of-government approach to the security of information, noting there was no coordination of information security at that level. A number of Queensland government agencies suffer similar weaknesses in their IT network security, and the auditor-general has recommended that agencies pay more attention to this in order to reduce the risk of attacks.

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