Cabinet to get $6.5m computer system

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 10:26 21/06/2012

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A $6.5 million secure computer system is being developed for Government ministers and their staff despite the current system working perfectly well.

The current Cabinet system is largely paper-based or involved sensitive documents being emailed between people, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet acting chief executive Rebecca Kitteridge said.

"It's not a situation where the Cabinet system is failing, it works very well, but it has fallen behind what people expect for support of the Cabinet system."

A cost-benefit analysis showed the new system would provide efficiencies and savings as well as improving service to ministers.

The secure browser-based electronic platform, known as cabnet, is expected to be up and running by late next year.

Labour MP Chris Hipkins said $6.5m in new money seemed like a lot for a system that serviced 20 Cabinet ministers.

But Prime Minister John Key said cabnet was about creating efficiency and creating a secure system.

He denied it was due to concern about leaks.

In 2006 a Beehive messenger was sacked for leaking details of plans to unbundle Telecom and recently an inquiry was launched after information about planned changes at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade were made public.

Kitteridge said the new system would facilitate work between government departments and would make Cabinet submissions, decisions and documents at varying stages of completion available to authorised users.

"The security of the system will obviously be paramount."

She was worried about the security of the current system with different versions of Cabinet documents being emailed back and forth between officials.

"At the moment, what happens is that people physically bring the papers up from the ministers' offices... with a physical orange top and then there's mass of photocopiers thundering away in the Cabinet office and messengers with trolleys who are going down the Beehive and handing papers out."

The new system would not be used for highly classified information, she said.

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