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Qld shadow IT minister wants accountability

As the Queensland Government pledges more cash for IT projects, the state's shadow ICT minister is calling for better project accountability to avoid bungles and blowouts like the catastrophic Queensland Health payroll system.
Written by Luke Hopewell, Contributor on

As the Queensland Government pledges more cash for IT projects, the state's shadow ICT minister is calling for better project accountability to avoid bungles and blowouts like the catastrophic Queensland Health payroll system.

Tally board

Queensland's shadow ICT minister, Ros Bates, wants the government to review IT projects on a monthly basis. (Tally image by With Associates, CC BY SA 2.0)

"The Queensland government spends $1.3 billion on ICT each year, and I can't see any real accountability until something goes wrong," said Ros Bates, Queensland's shadow minister for government services, building industry and information and communication technology.

"We need to review how the government undertakes management in all of its projects," Bates added, calling for a centralised reporting authority for ICT projects.

"I'd like to see where the money is being spent and if it's being spent appropriately. Before we do anything, we need to improve the project control and management of systems, involving a monthly review of the top projects underway and projects recently completed and lessons learned. We need a register of all ICT projects and where they're at," she said.

Bates also feels that the state's procurement practices need to be reviewed, saying that the government ought to look for local providers before going abroad to big players like IBM and Oracle, for example.

"Procurement needs to be reviewed, because buying IT is not like purchasing a car or stationary. It's expensive and its long-term. Part of the procurement process should be looking at what we have in Queensland."

Bates, appointed to the shadow ICT ministry last month, has spent her time liaising with Queensland IT industry groups like the Australian Information Industry Association and Software Queensland. Bates said that to serve the Queensland IT community more effectively, government IT portfolios need a shake-up.

"I would like to see [several IT bodies] consolidated so we have oversight by the minister so we can pre-empt blowouts and disasters.

"We need to consolidate a lot of the ICT governance in the state sector, because there's a plethora of committees and subcommittees which need to be consolidated or integrated, like the ICT work group, iMed and the office of the Queensland government CIO and CTO.

Bates' thoughts echo those expressed by the head of Software Queensland, John Vickers, just weeks before Bates' appointment to the shadow ministry.

Vickers told ZDNet Australia last month that "the ICT industry in Queensland is once again not being taken seriously, and we are once more being marginalised and treated as an afterthought".

Bates agreed with Vickers' sentiment, saying that the Queensland ICT industry had been neglected under incumbent IT Minister Robert Schwarten.

"I certainly think that the ICT industry in Queensland has suffered under 14 years of Robert Schwarten, who didn't understand the technologies and their potential. I've been consulting in the community and they've told me that the moment when someone spoke to Schwarten about ICT, he likened it was like the building industry. He didn't get the nuances of IT," Bates said.

The Queensland Labor Government this week announced in the budget that hundreds of millions of dollars would flow to IT in 2011/12, with health, emergency services and utilities providers the big winners.

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