​WA parliamentary committee confident government CIO will fix current IT problems

A WA parliamentary committee is concerned for the future of state health IT contracts, pointing to the establishment of a government chief information officer as an opportunity to prevent history repeating itself.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The West Australian Education and Health Standing Committee is hopeful that the establishment of the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (GCIO) will put an end to the poor management of IT procurement and project management previously plaguing the state.

In its report, <System Error> Auditor General's report on Health Department's Procurement and Management of its Centralised Computing Services Contract, the committee notes further Department of Health (DoH) IT contracts have the potential to "spiral out of control" if it does not address certain findings and implement key recommendations made by the committee.

The DoH entered into a contract in 2010 with Fujitsu Australia for the provision of centralised computing services for an initial cost of AU$44.9 million. A few years on, the report said the contract had the potential to blow out to AU$175 million, despite the current value of the contract remaining unclear.

The initial contract with Fujitsu included the provision of primary and secondary datacentre facilities, as well as "management and support of the computer and network infrastructure in the datacentres, and support to the data rooms at teaching, regional, and other metro hospitals".

The West Australian Auditor General then audited the procurement and management of the contract, with a report tabled in January 2016.

Key findings of the audit were that the project demonstrated failings in governance, contract management, and financial management.

While this report is not intended to revisit all of the issues raised or findings made by the Auditor General, it says it is intended to highlight the committee's major outstanding concerns with the DoH's management of the contract and other major IT projects.

"The committee was astonished and extremely concerned to learn that DoH employees signed off contract variations well in excess of their authority, at times exceeding their delegation limit by 20,000 percent," the report says.

The committee said it was encouraged by the fact the Auditor General is "very, very hopeful" that the establishment of the Office of the GCIO will lead to improved IT procurement and project management across government.

"Nevertheless, the committee holds concerns for other significant DoH IT contracts that have the potential to spiral out of control if the DoH does not address the deficiencies discussed," the report says.

The committee made four recommendations to the DoH, which all include the Minister for Health reporting to the Legislative Assembly on its disciplinary proceedings or its investments exceeding AU$10 million.

Giles Nunis was officially appointed as the first GCIO for WA last October, with the Office of the GCIO only established three months prior under the Department of Finance umbrella.

At the time, WA Premier Colin Barnett said Nunis had an important role to play in helping to stabilise the government's IT costs, develop a whole-of-government IT strategy, and build the capacity of WA's growing IT sector.

"The government spends AU$1 billion to AU$2 billion on IT and this needs to be strongly managed to ensure we deliver the best value to West Australians," the premier said. "Nunis has the right combination of professional skills and practical experience, with a fundamental understanding of the private and public sectors and how to negotiate and deliver large IT projects."

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