Australian Government CIO Glenn Archer says he has no intention of making it easier for agencies to receive funding and approval for major ICT projects.
In June 2008 Cabinet decreed that all ICT-enabled projects with a budget of over $30 million (including at least $10 million for ICT) deemed ‘high risk’ would need to be put through an arduous two-pass review process before receiving approval.
All business cases are reviewed by Archer’s Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) before being put to Cabinet with its feedback.
Archer acknowledged that for a large project this “incredibly intensive activity” would take at least a year, but he was unapologetic about the level of scrutiny.
“The additional hurdle means that at the back end of the process the chances of failure are much lower,” he said. “At this stage, we are not thinking that we need to soften the process in any way.”
Archer said Cabinet’s insistence on the two-pass process has helped the Australian Government avoid failures on the scale of Queensland Health’s payroll replacement or Victoria’s HealthSMART and police database projects.
“It is not my place to be guiding the states, but I do think the value of the effort associated with some of the investment processes we have is demonstrated by the fact that we haven’t had, to date, any of those very high profile failures,” he said.
“That is not to say that individual projects don’t run a bit over time or a bit over budget, but we don’t have them on a large and embarrassing scale.
“At this point I need a large piece of wood because I certainly would like it to stay that way,” he added.
Archer did concede, however, that making sure these constraints didn’t stifle innovation was a challenge AGIMO would have to think about.
“Agencies who do want to embark on a major innovation may find that by the time that they have ticked all the boxes technology has passed them by. We don’t want that to happen,” he said, adding that some of the most innovative projects he had seen come out of agencies of late fell below the threshold anyway.
The last major ICT project to run into trouble at the Australian Government was the Australian Taxation Office’s Change Program, which had nearly doubled its original budget by May 2011, reaching a cost of more than $750 million.
More recently the Department of Health and Ageing’s roll-out of a Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) has struggled to meet deadlines and targets for patient registrations. Health was forced to remove long-time supplier IBM from one component of the project.