Ed Husic, the shadow minister for the digital economy, has called for a thoroughgoing, independent review of the government’s IT spend and digital transformation programs.
During an address at the Australian Information Industry Association Navigating Digital Government Summit, Husic cited the fraught online Census, Centrelink’s much-criticised data-matching program and the Australian Taxation Office’s high-profile system failures as examples of government IT going off the rails.
An “arms-length”, independent review is needed to establish why “so many government ICT projects and upgrades have gone wrong”, determine whether the government is getting value for money from its expenditure on technology, assess oversight arrangements and map out potential ways to improve the government’s digital transformation program.
“Even though digital transformation performance is sinking, public expectations will continue to travel in an opposite direction – and this will remain a friction point for governments into the future,” Husic said in remarks prepared for the AIIA summit.
The restructuring of the Digital Transformation Office into the Digital Transformation Agency and the subsequent resignation of the DTO CEO Paul Shetler was an example of “disorganisation and dysfunction” within government.
In an op-ed last month for The Australian, Angus Taylor, the government’s assistant minister for cities and digital transformation, said there had been “years of underinvestment in IT and digital under Labor’s watch”. The government is expecting to spend $10 billion on IT this financial year.
“At a time when senators are being asked to tick off federal budgets containing massive cuts to family payments, paid parental leave, childcare support, schools and hospitals funding – the Turnbull government brags out an effective doubling of its ICT spending,” Husic said.
Taylor announced earlier this year that a Digital Transformation Agency program would see the DTA assess government IT projects worth costing over $10 million.
The DTA’s Digital Investment Management Office is “good”, “but it’s a future focus that conveniently casts the eyes well above the current mess,” Husic argued.
(Taylor today announced that former NAB exec Gavin Slater had been appointed DTA CEO.)