The arbiters of troubled government projects such as the myki e-ticketing system could soon be forced to account for their failures, as political forces threaten to end the groundhog day cycle of billion-dollar cost blowouts and long-term delays.
These days it’s almost the exception to the rule when a public sector technology system implementation isn’t plagued by billions of dollars of cost blowouts and delivered several years after the original deadline.
However, Victorian ombudsman George Brouwer and Auditor-General Des Pearson recently joined forces to end the groundhog day cycle of project failure after project failure, where no one is held to account and lessons aren’t applied to future projects.
According to a report in The Age, Mr Brouwer used his powers to launch his own inquiry into the handling of a number of government technology projects mismanaged by the previous Labor government - including the myki e-ticketing system which has already had suffered $350million in cost blow-outs.
It isn’t clear when the investigation will be completed but the fact it is underway is a serious win for governance and accountability in the public sector.
It’s important to note that this has occurred soon after Victoria’s Liberal party was overwhelmingly endorsed by voters to run the state, for the first time in over a decade.
If recent events are anything to go by, the outcome will have serious consequences.
The work of the ombudsman was largely credited with deposing the Victorian Police commissioner, Simon Overland, for reporting < href=”http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/06/16/hands-up-who-failed-stats-overland-resigns/”> manipulated crime statistics.
This column argued that Overland’s behaviour was a symptom of a problem that has existed for decades, enabled by a dysfunctional technology system - law enforcement assistance program (LEAP).
Technology project failures are often indicative of systemic issues in an organisation, which could be exposed by the ombudman’s wide-ranging IT investigation (endorsed by the new Premier Ted Ballieu).
The new government has not wasted any time blaming its predecessor for the myki project failures and transport Minister Terry Mulder said there are no easy answers to fix the long legacy of < a href=http://vic.liberal.org.au/News/MediaReleases/tabid/159/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/3289/Fixing-myki-to-get-Victorias-transport-ticketing-system-back-on-track.aspx”>Labor’s myki mess.
“Many problems with the myki ticketing system originated with the inadequate contract the Brumby Labor Government entered into which did not include appropriate governance, project management or financial controls for a project of this size and complexity,” Mulder said.
The government also salvaged the project in high-level discussions with NTT Data - the parent company of myki developer Kamco - and the pair agreed to a reduced scope, increased testing, and greater third-party oversight.
As technology projects occupy a more prominent position in the minds of voters and also consume a bigger and bigger piece of state government budgets, there will be decreasing tolerance for situations where promises are broken and taxpayer dollars are poorly managed.
It seems the past may finally catch up on those responsible for such negligence.