Queensland’s corruption watchdog has unambiguously put government agencies on notice over potential grooming by IT companies, as tech spending across the public sector surpasses $1.3 billion.
In an unprecedented shot over the bow of the technology sector, the state’s powerful Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) recently published guidance to alert agencies to fraud and corruption risks associated with IT-related procurements.
The sector specific advisory deems ICT as “particular[ly] high-risk” and is certain to attract the attention of other states in terms of their corruption controls.
“Government employees with specialised knowledge and influence over ICT procurement may be targeted or ‘groomed’ by private entities with a vested interest in the granting of contracts,” the guidance states.
“Some employees may be susceptible to being induced to act corruptly, making them a risk to the integrity of procurement processes.”
The watchdog points to its numerous investigations and complaints received over the years as having shown that “government employees with specialist knowledge and influence over ICT procurement may be tempted or induced to act corruptly”.
“CCC research indicates some private organisations will use sales tactics to target influential persons within government agencies with a view to building a rapport and influencing procurement processes,” it said.
Telling signs include a failure to “engage in adequate planning for significant ICT procurements” and “no or limited oversight” of specialist staff undertaking procurement activities, along with more obvious issues like undeclared relationships between IT providers and staff.
Specialised staff could also “try and personally capitalise on ICT-related outsourcing”, especially if the work is below the thresholds for an approach to market.
But more generalist staff are no more immune to the corruption risks then specialists, with “the rapid pace of change” bewildering those evaluating technology solutions.
This “creates a minefield for procurement panels who may lack the subject matter knowledge to fully understand proposed ICT solutions and whether products offered by providers can deliver on expectations”.
The advice follows a recent audit of the state’s IT projects dashboard that put the cost of in-flight IT programs and projects at $1.3 billion.
The central IT accountability mechanism is used to track projects was introduced in 2013 after an audit found lack of transparency to be the "single biggest cause of the poor state of government ICT".
The CCC said the “high level of spending presents opportunities for private entities within the ICT industry to secure lucrative government contracts”.