Victorian Government moves to fix Labor's $1.44b mistake

The Victorian Government has introduced the Victorian Information and Communications Technology Advisory Committee to provide advice on a new ICT strategy.

The Victorian Government has moved to fixed key weaknesses in the state's ICT strategy following a critical report by the auditor-general on Victoria's ICT frameworks and policies.

The revised strategy follows the November 2011 release of the Victorian Ombudsman's report into the state's ICT which slammed the then Labor government's management of ICT projects and investments.

Assistant treasurer, Gordon Rich-Phillips, said the revised ICT strategy will align processes across departments with a clear set of governance, accountability and direction.

“We have also established high risk, high value guidelines to apply extra scrutiny and rigor to all ICT projects and we are overhauling the way government procures ICT services,” he said.

“These changes will help prevent the major cost blowouts and bungles in ICT that became such a trademark when Daniel Andrews was in government.”

The Victorian Information and Communications Technology Advisory Committee (VICTAC), which was established earlier this month, will provide advice on the new ICT strategy and currently comprises industry and government representatives. It is chaired by Grantly Mailes, former South Australian chief information officer.

The auditor-general’s report, which was tabled in parliament yesterday, was particularly damning of the Department of Treasury and Finance's (DTF) role in managing ICT frameworks and policies in secondary schools.

The report examined whether frontline ICT equipment and software was effectively managed throughout its entire lifecycle, including the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD); the Department of Justice (DOJ); the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority; four government secondary schools; and Victoria Police.

In particular, it used two ICT projects as case studies - the Mobile Data Network (MDN), which was used by Victoria Police and managed by the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority, and the National Secondary School Computer Fund, which provided ICT equipment for students in Years 9 to 12 and was funded by the Commonwealth Government and overseen by DEECD.

The report was particularly damning of planning and asset management frameworks, stating there were major shortcomings and unsustainable funding models in place, with a lack of oversight of frontline ICT assets in the National Secondary School Computer Fund in particular.

This resulted in practices being dealt with on a case-by-case basis which relied on localised expertise, instead of a systemic approach, and the government being uninformed about frontline ICT assets and their current capacity and future investment needs.

This lack of oversight posed risks to students' learning goals, and while DEECD was aware of the obsolescence risks to schools, it failed to inform schools of the risk and jeopardised DEECD’s strategy to incorporate ICT as an integral part of the school curriculum, the auditor-general found.

However, the auditor-general was less damning of the MDN, stating ICT obsolescence is largely out of the DTF’s control due to external factors, such as radio spectrum, being managed by the Commonwealth Government.

The Victorian government has had a controversial history with failed ICT projects, with taxpayers forced to fork out an extra $1.44 billion due to poorly managed ICT projects, including cost overruns for the public transport ticketing system myki and the hopstial IT system HealthSMART.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

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