Queensland Govt gives shared payroll another shot

Is the Queensland Government testing the waters for centralised shared services again?

The Queensland Government is planning to combine and outsource a number of government payroll systems into one single system, two years after a disastrous payroll experience with its health department.

Information Minister Ros Bates' department will be the first to receive the unified payroll treatment. Her department, which includes Arts Queensland, CITEC and Queensland Shared Services, has eight separate systems, which will be rolled into one and outsourced.

"Our current systems are akin to driving a 1972 Ford clunker with the original tyres, which has missed most of its services," Bates said in a statement. "We are paying IT specialists exorbitant amounts of money to gaffer tape our system so we can pay our staff."

The project, which will be a test case for the rest of the Queensland Government, will be put up for tender soon. According to Bates, the existing eight payroll systems are antiquated, not to mention heavily customised, making them hard to deal with and expensive to run.

Bates was careful to note in her announcement that the Department of Health would not be one of the departments to be brought onto the new unified payroll.

In 2010, a new SAP-based payroll system was rolled-out at Queensland Health, which led to thousands of staff being overpaid . An audit from KPMG has tipped that the cost to implement and repair the faulty payroll system will be as high as AU$1.25 billion between 2010 and 2017 — AU$530 million more than the initial estimated cost.

The debacle led then Premier Anna Bligh to announce that it would dump its "one-size-fits-all" shared services model for its IT functions to avoid a repeat of the Queensland Health screw up.

"What the previous government has done is said health and education can go their own way on payroll, but the rest of the government would be under Shared Services," a spokesperson for Bates told ZDNet Australia. "So we're not looking to abandon that whatsoever.

"We have a large number of problems with our ICT systems in payroll, and we're looking at going to the market to upgrade, consolidate and aggregate them."

Bates is responsible for whole-of-government IT issues. She started a complete audit of IT systems when she came into power, and has blamed the former Labor Government for the IT problems inherited by the Liberal Party.

Updated at XX.XXpm, 20 August 2012: added comment from Bates' office.

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