Room for improvement

Room for improvement

The Federal Government’s ICT processes are currently under independent review. ARN talks to Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) general manager, Ann Steward, about what this is likely to mean for the local industry.

Finance and Deregulation Minister, Lindsay Tanner, claimed that ICT spending was "completely uncoordinated, leading to serious inefficiencies and cost blowouts" under the Howard Government. Can you provide examples of areas identified as fitting this description?

Ann Steward (AS): That's the Minister's comment so I can only tell you about what we've been doing within our office. We work with our departments and agencies on a broad range of initiatives within our overall ICT environment. Our work has been very collaborative and we've been focused on policy standards and initiatives to be able to support a much more integrated use and management of technology. Independently, agencies have their own ICT strategies that they work on to support their service programs. But that had been under the umbrella of our response of government strategy endorsed by the former government.

During a speech to the National Press Club, and in previous announcements, the minister specifically identified ICT spending as an area where cuts would be made. Please explain your strategy for these cuts.

AS: My recollection is that the minister had indicated that this is an area that the government has under review. That is precisely what led to the establishment of the independent review of the Australian government's use of ICT, and the appointment of Sir Peter Gershon to undertake that review. So it's in the context of the broader review, which the minister has referred to, often described in other media as the 'razor gang' style. They are examining and reporting on both the efficiency and effectiveness of the way we currently use ICT, and whether we are realising the greatest return. What opportunities are there for doing things in different ways? Can we extend those that are working well? What are the barriers? You can see by the terms of reference itself that it's very comprehensive. The work will look not only at practices within individual agencies but also the overall governance of that.

Sir Peter is due to report on his review of the federal government's management of its $10 billion IT and communications assets. and the annual $6 billion spend on new projects in September this year. Will the results of this review be made public and, if so, when and where can they be accessed?

AS: As you indicate, the Minister has asked for the report to be made available to him by September and that is what Sir Peter is focused on delivering. With regard to the issue of it being made available to a wider audience, that really is a matter for the Minister and government.

Was Sir Peter given instructions on particular areas of the federal government's ICT spending to look into?

AS: The terms of reference are what Sir Peter has been invited to address... a very broad, extensive and comprehensive review.

What timeframe is the department giving itself for acting on his recommendations?

AS: I think that's premature. We'd really have to wait to see what is in the report and what the recommendations are.

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