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Govt departments to eliminate "unnecessary spend" on third-party providers

Govt departments to eliminate "unnecessary spend" on third-party providers

Including contractors, consultants and external vendors

Capital of Australia, Canberra

Capital of Australia, Canberra

In order to eliminate unnecessary spend on contractors, consultants and external vendors, government departments should examine project budgets.

That was one of the recommendations put forward in the inquiry into the digital delivery of government services published on 27 June.

According to the report, the cost of consultants extends beyond their budgetary impact.

"The governments' policy of outsourcing much of its ICT capability to external vendors and contractors has led to a loss of internal capability by the Australian Public Service (APS )," the report stated.

"The committee is not convinced, for instance, that either the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) or the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) were fully cognisant of the risks they were taking on in the contractual arrangements that led to the ATO outages and the online census failure respectively."

The ATO was struck by widespread systems outages after 3PAR storage area network (SAN) hardware supplied by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) in late 2015 unexpectedly failed in December 2016.

The committee stated that it was difficult to assess the cost of ICT consultants to the government, mainly because after asking for this information the committee often got as a response that the government does not consider it good value for money to track this spend.

The role of the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA)has also been questioned in the report, which claimed that at the time of its creation, the DTA was intended to operate as a 'powerful new program management office' that would track ICT and digital projects across the whole of government, stepping in to remediate where things are not working.

"In reality, it had only a minor role in the case studies examined by this committee," the report stated.

The report found that digital projects have a reputation in both the public and private sectors for running overtime and over-budget.

However, it argued that over the past five years the government has overseen a litany of failures, largely unprecedented in scale and degree.

Among those, the report cited the failure of the online delivery of the 2016 Census, the repeated outages suffered by ATO and the "overtime and budget" Biometric Identification Services project recently suspended by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, with contractors escorted off the premises.


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