Australians will help review public sector IT projects

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Australian civil servants will join and even lead some reviews of large New Zealand public sector IT projects.

The arrangement, which is reciprocal, was reached after the State Services Commission agreed to adopt OGC Gateway, a system for monitoring capital projects that was developed by the British government.

Deputy commissioner Laurence Millar says the SSC has struck formal agreements with the state governments of Victoria and Canberra - which are also Gateway converts - allowing officials from the three governments to jointly participate in peer reviews.

The adoption of Gateway, which is not limited to ICT monitoring but will be used to review other capital spending, comes as the public service tackles a significant wave of major capital projects, Mr Millar says.

"We are coming round to a cycle of reinvestment across Government."

"Some of the major systems put in during the 1990s are getting close to end of life. For the past six to eight months we have been working with Treasury to see how the Government can improve its overall capital management regime."


The SSC has primary responsibility for keeping tabs on large public sector IT projects.

Mr Millar says the monitoring regime that was put in place in the wake of the police Incis computer failure has "stood us in pretty good stead".

But he says its home-grown monitoring systems had the "constraint of being a bespoke approach".

Gateway - which the British government's Office of Government Commerce has made available to other governments free of charge - will lift project monitoring up a level, he says.

"In our current regime the emphasis was on responding to problem projects and most of our focus has been on making sure projects are delivered on budget and on time."

Gateway also aims to ensure projects deliver the business outcomes sought in the beginning, he says.

"Having something we can pull off the shelf to say: `this is how you do that phase' is attractive.

"It is being managed and evolved by a more substantial team than New Zealand would ever be able to put together and because we are using the same methodology as other countries, it significantly increases our pool of reviewers."

One principle of Gateway is that no-one can lead a review of a project till they have participated in a review.

Though the SSC employs some accredited Gateway reviewers who have moved here from Britain, it will only have a small pool of practitioners at first, making it particularly helpful to tap into the pool in Australia.

Reviews will only provide advice. New Zealand and British government agencies are unlikely to swap staff for project reviews because of the different time zones, he says.

Mr Millar says the Government is unlikely to follow the Australian federal government in monitoring the total amount of money paid to individual IT vendors by the public sector.

The Australian Financial Review reported that the federal government planned to do this as part of an effort by Australia's Finance Department to get better control over its A$6 billion (NZ$6.8 billion) annual spend on technology.

Mr Millar doubts such information would make a difference to the way contracts were awarded here.

Public sector chief information officers meet informally to share their experiences dealing with suppliers, "a fantastic idea" which he says may be more useful.

The Dominion Post