Feds to review IT failures
The Federal Government has launched a widespread review of its major IT projects, after a string of very public failures.
The Digital Transformation Agency will receive enhanced powers to oversee new tech investments, as the public perception of the government’s ability to do IT lays in tatters.
From #CensusFail to robo-debt - and lesser-known issues such as the accidental publishing of asylum seekers’ private information on a public website – governments are rightfully considered horrible at running computers.
Under the new review, up to 100 IT projects worth $10 million or more will be gone back over.
The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) will also be empowered to scrutinise new government IT investments through an “investment management office”, as well as gaining “greater visibility and centralised management of IT projects”, the government says.
Assistant minister for digital transformation, Angus Taylor, said the DTA was already looking at Centrelink’s debt recovery system, and would work to “remediate” other projects with significant problems.
“We’re looking across all projects, and in fact we will make interventions where we need to,” Mr Taylor told reporters.
“Already we’ve had the DTA team working very, very closely with DHS on changes to how the Centrelink system works, and I think those changes are extremely good and will make a big difference.
“So alongside the review there will be selective intervention where it’s needed.”
The DTA was set up as an innovation-focused, start-up-style service delivery agency, but has now taken on a broader role in government IT.
DTA began to be restructured last year in an effort to hand responsibility to it for procurement, shared IT services, expenditure and strategy and policy. Mr Taylor denied claims that the government cannot handle big IT projects, saying all projects inevitably experienced problems.
“I think we can always do better, I think in IT you can always do better, and this is an opportunity to do better,” he said.
“The value from this for the Australian citizen is enormous, anyone who has used really good IT, after dealing with clunky IT, knows how big a difference it makes.”
Former DTA chief executive Paul Shetler has slammed the government’s culture of blame aversion, saying the string of “cataclysmic” failures were “not a crisis of IT” but a “crisis of government”.
Mr Taylor said each federal department had been trying to build up its IT staff and skills on its own, creating “serious duplication” between the IT areas of various departments.
“Now, after the restructure late last year, [the DTA] is focused also on overseeing these projects, making sure they are delivering value for money, making sure they will deliver the outcomes to citizens and government, and that they’re being done in the best way possible,” Mr Taylor said.
“We’ve decided the best way to start that process of oversight is reviewing the portfolio of bigger projects.”