Five government agencies have been told to develop performance measures for their Internet offerings after their Web sites were declared rudderless ships floating aimlessly on a sea of taxpayer's money, according to the findings Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report.
Entitled, "Quality Internet services for government clients – Monitoring and evaluation by government Agencies", the ANAO report found that the Australian Taxation Office, The Australian Securities and Investment Commission, the CSIRO, the Health Insurance Commission and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations all lacked the means by which to gauge performance of their Web sites.
"None of the agencies had agency-level administrative policies or guidance specifically addressing requirements and responsibilities for both monitoring and evaluation of agency Web sites and Internet-delivered services," the report noted.
While the report does not criticise any of the Web sites per se, it found there was currently no way of determining whether or not the government and public were getting value for money from them.
Moreover, the auditor found individual agencies were not compelled to measure the performance of their Internet offerings – but that they should be.
"The ANAO considers that a strategic, agency-level focus on Internet services is necessary because of the evolving nature of the Internet, the likely cost of investment, and the impact it may have on future service delivery strategies for the government," the report noted.
While the government has had some noted run-ins with the ANAO in the past, federal IT and Communications Minister Daryl Williams appeared to take the auditors constructive criticism in his stride, even welcoming the advice.
"Performance management and benchmarking is a significant element of the government's e-government strategy. Consistent with initiatives in the offline environment, agencies should establish a business case for their online investments and regularly review progress on key performance indicators," a spokeswoman for Williams said.
The spokeswoman added that "tool kits" and "checklists" are being developed by the National Office for the Information Economy to assist in the evaluation of hundreds of government Web sites.
Williams' shadow minister Kate Lundy was having none of it, labelling the ANAO report a condemnation of the government's IT accountability.
"The Howard government has failed to ensure good practice in the delivery of online services to citizens. These adverse findings are further evidence of the failings of the Howard government in relation to the government’s IT policy," Lundy said.