IT project delayed, blown out by millions

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 12:05 11/12/2013

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Another government IT project has run into strife, with a major blowout forecast in the cost of the Department of Internal Affairs' (DIA) digital archive.

Delivery has also been set back by up to five years.

The project has now been put on hold, pending a decision about its future.

Documents obtained by Labour's associate arts, culture and heritage spokesman Grant Robertson show a series of problems at the DIA project, part of the Government's move to create a "whole of government" digital archive.

The initial cost of $12 million in 2010 has blown out and it would need an extra $8.3m to $10.8m in capital expenditure, according to a project review.

It was originally to go on line in three years, but will not now be ready for another four to five years.

"It's another IT project disaster under this Government, following on from Novopay and the IRD," Robertson said.

DIA is responsible for IT projects across the whole of government.

The review of the digital archive programme outlined a catalogue of problems including the disestablishment of a governance group after its failure to resolve the programme's "red" status, and a low understanding of the key issues across the leadership team.

"The programme is forecasting both a financial blowout and schedule slippage at this stage," reviewer Mike Dasler said.

He said the project team had been reduced to a minimal size with many members recently leaving or deciding not to continue their programme assignment.

"Morale amongst the team is low with uncertainty over the future of the programme, [and] there is no shared vision/objective on what programme success will look like," he said.

The programme had reported a "red" status for several months without resolution at a higher level.

Robertson said DIA officials confirmed at select committee today that Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain had been briefed throughout the programme.

"Why did he allow the programme to continue with such a lack of focus and budgetary discipline?" Robertson asked.

"A review of the programme indicates failure on almost every level.

"A large number of staff have resigned and morale is low because of 'uncertainty' over its future. There has been 'poor' communication, 'unsatisfactory' documentation, 'loosely directed' resources and contractors who have no 'formal reporting' process.

"It is a shambles and there is no new archive system in sight."

DIA deputy chief executive Sue Powell told the government administration select committee the programme was a "greenfields" project that had not been tried elsewhere.

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The blowout would have happened if the project had continued on its present track, but that had been stopped.

"We are not staying on the current trajectory," she said.

"We have put a pause on the programme."

DIA was still assessing the programme's future and whether any writedown of costs would be made.
"If there is it will be quite small," she said.

Powell said she would not characterise the project as "out of control" as Robertson had claimed.

A decision on the future of the project would be made soon.

DIA chief executive Colin MacDonald said the world had changed dramatically since the project was started several years ago.

The amount and nature of digital information had changed beyond recognition.

"So it's time to stop and say how do we re-scope the project to deal with the current world and the future world," he said

- Stuff

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