Right of reply

Public accountability and transparency are rightly legislated requirements of government departments and agencies. As part of this, watchdog agencies such as the Victorian Auditor General’s Office and its pasting of the Electronic Commerce for Procurement (EC4P) project (CW, June 16, p8), and more recently, the Australian National Audit Office’s (ANAO) critique of the Department of Immigration Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs’ (DIMIA) IT systems (CW, July 14, p1), get coverage. That ANAO report focused on DIMIA’s difficulties in integrating data between its onshore and offshore visa application processing systems.

While not disputing the facts of our report on the audit of “selected aspects of the family migration program”, DIMIA executives including Cheryl Hannah, CIO business solutions group, felt aggrieved that this represented only a very small part of the overall IT story. They believed that due credit was not paid to the strides in efficient delivery of its services worldwide brought by initiatives such as e-Visas, electronic authority to travel, and easy online access to information for clients worldwide. Hannah cites productivity gains such as the department now handling some 120 times the transaction workload of the early 1980s, while holding the headcount at more or less the same level during the same period.

The ANAO audit fingered the processing of parent visa classes and the fact that limitations here left many officers with the need to maintain their own disparate databases. While Hannah concedes that many “learnings” have come to it and service partner CSC during the systems revamp of recent years, significant IT milestones have been reached. She points to a major data warehousing project, parts of which went live late last year, that will progressively serve as the basis for the department’s reporting requirements.

The media plays its proper role by reporting on the mediocre and bad report cards offered up by the watchdogs. But I’d be having you on if I were to pretend that private-sector media outlets like Computerworld were more interested in performing a public service than getting juicy little news stories. That’s our job, and we make no apologies. But also, I am more than happy to give public sector CIOs such as Cheryl Hannah copious right of reply. That’s also our job.

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