Does the Queensland Government need a CIO?

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Does the Queensland Government need a CIO?

(Blog post) Working out where the buck stops.

The Queensland Government’s review of whether it will require a chief information officer continues this week, after former CIO Peter Grant was asked to move to a project-specific role in May.

Ian Walker, the Queensland Government Minister responsible for IT,  has not yet announced whether there is a future for the Queensland Government CIO office, despite last month’s release of the long-awaited $5.2 million IT systems audit Grant had commissioned.

The audit recommended the large-scale outsourcing of IT, and the removal of “less capable” staff for high-risk IT projects. The Government will instead seek independent assurance from the private sector for such big ticket items.

Walker's strategy - supported in the audit - shows a massive lack of faith in the Government’s public servants. But while the State Government may be able to outsource large projects, can it really shift responsibility in its entirety?

The approach stands in sharp contrast to that adopted by New Zealand, which last week gave its chief information officer wide-ranging powers to be involved and intervene in IT projects.

Like Queensland, New Zealand has faced a range of major IT project failures. But instead of looking to distribute responsibility to external suppliers, the New Zealand government wants accountability concentrated in the hands of one person.

NZ CIO Colin McDonald will have the powers to intervene in any public sector ICT procurement, and flick a kill switch on projects he views as unnecessary in the first place.

As Queensland considers its next step, perhaps the government should consider what would have worked better in the case of the bungled Queensland Health payroll project.

It was clear from the testimony of key witnesses during the commission of inquiry into the failed project that no one person was willing to bear responsibility.

Former CorpTech general manager Barbara Perrott, former Queensland Health director Michael Reid, former Public Works Minister Robert Schwarten and former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh all blamed those down the chain for not communicating the extent of the problems with the project.

Witness after witness delegated responsibility.

IBM blamed the divisive tension between Queensland Health and former Government shared services organisation CorpTech as a major cause of many of the project’s problems.

Some of the most telling testimony during the inquiry came from former Health Minister Paul Lucas, who pointed out public servants would be no match for IBM in any court case, because they simply didn’t understand the commercial realities of dealing with suppliers.

IT project governance can be outsourced, with responsibility given to one senior project manager. But ultimately, who should the buck rest with? We’re interested in your view.

Charis Palmer is editor of iTnews.com.au

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Charis Palmer
Charis Palmer is an experienced business journalist with specialist expertise in banking, retail and government IT. Prior to working with iTnews, Charis was News Editor with The Conversation, and editor with Business Spectator. She was also the founding editor of Technology Spectator, and before that ran her own media and events business focused on the banking sector.
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