Qld govt IT to be raked by audit

Queensland IT Minister Ros Bates has begun the post-election clean-out, this week launching a wide-ranging audit of the government's IT capabilities.
Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor

Queensland IT Minister Ros Bates has begun the post-election clean-out, this week launching a wide-ranging audit of the government's IT capabilities.

The audit, to be run by 32 public servants, will cost $5.21 million, and will be funded through current agency budgets. Queensland Health is being reviewed separately by the health minister, and will therefore be exempt from the audit, as will statutory authorities and government-owned corporations, but the rest of the agencies will be in the spotlight.

Bates said yesterday at an Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) event that the Labor governments that preceded the LNP allowed IT to grow in a "wild, unmanaged and inconsistent way" across government departments, without knowing what was being used where.

"This audit will not only find out where all of the bodies are buried, but also where savings can be achieved," she said.

"On the patchy information we do have, it appears that the Beattie and Bligh Labor Governments had Queensland taxpayers paying for many outdated and duplicate systems, and many more licences than are necessary," she said. One example she named was telephone lines that were paid for, but not used.

The departments are also paying a much higher price than they would had they been purchasing as a collective; she said that the potential savings are "mind blowing".

"Can you imagine where the Queensland Government and the ICT industry would be now if all of that waste, all of that inefficiency, was used to create new and innovative ways of delivering the core business of government?" she asked.

However, the review is only one part of Bates' plan, which encompasses four pillars: growth, innovation, delivery and engagement.

In order to achieve growth, she thinks that procurement needs to ensure Queensland ICT industry development, which means red tape.

Queensland's procurement practices have been criticised previously by Software Queensland chairman John Vickers. He said that the government's current system only checks whether an organisation complies with the government requirements for procurement, and then considers how much its product costs. This might work for physical goods, such as paper or cars, but it doesn't work well for more intangible commodities, such as software and services.

He believes that it needs to be more sophisticated, to take into account ability, relationship and trust, rather than price.

Bates is calling for people who want to talk about procurement to join the "change team" to attack red tape and improve industry development. She said that the department will also be practicing a "share before buy, buy before build" policy across the departments.

Fostering the innovation pillar means making sure that IT can provide the products so that Queensland industry heroes, such as mining and tourism, can move ahead and flourish in their markets.

The audit will tackle the delivery pillar, she said, which is "so cracked, decrepit and flawed with the last government that if it were an actual pillar, it would have caused the whole building to fall".

"Delivery will be at the core of the culture within this department, and, over time, we will be announcing policy changes to ensure this occurs," she said.

The last pillar, improving engagement, means talking to the industry, according to Bates.

"If there's a problem, I want to hear about it; I don't want it swept under the rug, whitewashed or spun, I want to hear the unvarnished truth," she said.

"I'm not claiming to have all of the answers, I'm not claiming that mistakes won't be made, but I'm promising that if and when they happen, I won't compound them by pretending they didn't happen."

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