Consultants warn on Y2000

A year 2000 consultant has warned commonwealth departments and agencies to establish a "mitigation safety net" following a dismal Audit Office report on commonwealth Y2K preparedness.

And other consultants have questioned the government's understanding of and commitment to the millennium bug, with one calling on Prime Minister John Howard to follow British Prime Minister Tony Blair's direction in taking a personal lead on the issue.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report found most agencies were not following a systematic and structured approach to identification, ranking and treatment of Y2K risks.

And it found only 36 per cent of surveyed agencies had a corporate risk management plan, few had undertaken comprehensive testing of systems and applications and few had contingency, business resumption or disaster recovery plans in place.

Less than half the agencies could provide estimates of the total cost of Y2K compliance and the Audit Office concluded many agencies would not achieve compliance unless they greatly increased their present Y2K efforts and resources.

But consultants fear the government is still failing to allocate sufficient budget resources to the problem, and cite a lack of ministerial commitment as a major barrier to limiting the risk.

"In the UK, (Prime Minister) Tony Blair is actually saying this is a problem that business is not understanding. I don't hear John Howard saying that, and apart from a couple of press releases I don't really hear government saying much at all," one consultant said.

"We know from the work we've done that there is not enough budget allocation and it worries me that a problem of this kind is being tackled without most agencies taking any significant external advice at all.

"The ANAO made some perfectly sensible recommendations, but to adopt them agencies need money and they need resources. You try to find a test manager in Australia at the moment for less than $1500 a day," he said.

DMR Group Year 2000 Conversion Services consultant Peter Wright, one of the first consultants to publicly warn of commonwealth inaction on the issue, agreed the government needed a stronger commitment to addressing the problem.

"I think it's now too late to do the perfect job and fix the systems. The federal government probably needs to look at not prevention strategy, but a mitigation-type approach. Agencies should set up a mitigation safety net to catch problems," he said.

Wright said under the classic model for Y2K, the federal government needed to address both systems likely to fail before 2000 -- including applications and packages -- and systems likely to fail after 2000 when collecting old archive data.

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