[LINK] Tanner backs razor-gang cutbacks

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Tue Oct 21 15:00:01 EST 2008


Unfortunately Sir Gershon has fallen into his own trap. He complains 
about "the current model of weak governance of ICT at a 
whole-of-government level and very high levels of agency autonomy, 
characterised by an ability to self-approve opt-ins to existing 
whole-of-government ICT arrangements, leads to sub-optimal outcomes in 
the context of prevailing external trends, financial returns, and the 
aims and objectives of this Government"

The problem is, he is trying to optimise the acquisition and support of 
technology, not optimise the use of Information Systems to add value to 
citizens and/or government service delivery.

In his study, he did not ask and has not indicated how he could answer 
the question: “How do you know that, by optimising the government’s 
investment in ICT (ie in technology), the government will reduce the 
effectiveness and efficiency of its Information Systems and Information 

To put it quite simply - he is optimising the wrong thing at the expense 
of the right thing.

What the bureaucrats still don’t understand is that ICT is only part of 
an Information System and that the technology can have a significant 
impact on the behaviour and performance of the system. If the technology 
(or even the application) is mandated or constrained then there is a 
significant risk (close to 100%) that the whole system (and even the 
technology) will be way less than optimal.

This report is worth than useless – it gives the impression to those who 
do not understand the difference between Information Systems and 
Technology that something is being done to improve government services 
when in fact it will probably do the reverse.

BTW, I fully support cutting wasteful spending on IT by federal 
government agencies. I'd just like them to provide evidence that the 
spending was wasteful. If they can't (and they haven't done so far) then 
we can only assume that they are being driven by bureaucratic, economic 
and political ideologies.


Tanner backs razor-gang cutbacks
Karen Dearne
October 21, 2008
Australian IT

FINANCE Minister Lindsay Tanner has backed recommendations from razor 
gang chief Peter Gershon to cut wasteful spending on IT by federal 
government agencies, and reduce their use of contractors.

Mr Tanner released the Gershon Report for public debate late last week, 
ahead of its expected consideration by Cabinet "in the very near future".

Sir Peter has called for an end to agency autonomy in IT 
decision-making, their reliance on IT contract staff, and ad hoc 
investments in infrastructure rather than a whole-of-government approach.

A master plan to rationalise data centres would save $1 billion over 10 
years, he said.

Sir Peter also wants to slash the number of contract staff in agencies 
by 50 per cent over the next two years to save about $100 million. And 
he proposes stringent cuts to agencies' "business as usual" budgets that 
would return $140 million in the first year, and $400 million a year 

"Sir Peter has clearly recognised that completely devolved 
decision-making doesn't lead to ideal outcomes," Mr Tanner said 
yesterday. "He particularly draws attention to the inadequate 
consultation between policy decision-makers and those who have to 
implement the decisions. I was astonished to discover there have been 
instances where people responsible for delivering IT changes haven't 
heard about them until they've been announced in the media. Clearly in 
that situation there is a risk that you will end up with inefficiencies 
and excessive costs due to a lack of consultation."

Mr Tanner said that in the medium term there would be changes to ensure 
"the delivery mechanisms are better connected to the decision-making" 
process. And while IT contractors cost around $186,000 a year, compared 
to $94,000 for public service staff, Mr Tanner rejected industry 
concerns that contractors would be unwilling to switch.

"I'm confident Sir Peter has done a very thorough assessment of the 
circumstances within agencies," he said. "Sometimes this drift to 
contractors simply reflects a lack of internal controls. Although there 
are certain circumstances where you need to use contractors for a 
particular project because of an unpredictable workflow, it's clear the 
use of contractors has gone well beyond that."

Mr Tanner said new governance arrangements, such as the proposed 
Ministerial Committee on ICT, the Secretaries ICT Governance Board and a 
stronger Australian Government Information Management Office, would 
improve the focus on planning and management.

'One of the dilemmas we will have to address is that in some 
circumstances you have to spend money to save money," he said. "That's 
why Sir Peter recommended reductions in business-as-usual funding across 
agencies and then using half of that to finance new projects or 
remediation. In some areas where there are serious legacy problems, new 
investment will be required in order to enable the agency to deliver 
those savings without serious disruption."


Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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