OPEL ghosts haunt Broadband Department books

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OPEL ghosts haunt Broadband Department books

More claims could still arise.

Liquidators of the previous Coalition Government's canned OPEL broadband project were still considering whether to file "unquantified" financial claims against the Commonwealth, according to notes buried in an annual report.

The unspecified claims would be on top of financial "restoration" offered to the consortium for its costs incurred in producing an implementation plan - which was also yet to be accepted by liquidators.

The current Labor Government dumped the $958 million OPEL (Optus Networks and Elders) project in April 2008.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said at the time that a "detailed assessment of the testing and mapping contained in OPEL's implementation plan... found that OPEL did not achieve the required service coverage."

OPEL Networks was wound up on March 13, 2009.

The project was eventually replaced with the National Broadband Network (NBN).

But the financial fallout was still yet to be fully realised, according to notes in the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy's 2009-10 annual report [PDF], released late Friday.

Under the heading "unquantifiable contingencies", the report stated that the Commonwealth had "made provision in Departmental funding towards costs incurred by OPEL in producing its implementation plan."

It was unclear exactly how much of the almost $3.8 million set aside for "other provisions" in the annual report was earmarked for OPEL.

"OPEL's liquidators have not yet agreed to the offer [of restoration of costs] and are considering whether they have further as yet unquantified claims against the Commonwealth," the department said.

Consultant spending up

The DBCDE also reported a major increase in consultancy spending in 2009-10 which it attributed mostly to "assistance provided to the Department in relation to the National Broadband Network."

Total consultancy spending for the year came in at $37.7 million, including over $31.5 million on new contracts.

In the previous financial year, the DBCDE spent a shade under $20 million on consultants.

IT systems

The department said it had also deployed "web-based executive financial reporting" and redeployed its financial information system, SAP.

"The enhancements to SAP have resulted in the replacement of many manual processes with integrated, real-time processing," the report said.

DBCDE said it had selected Aurion to host the department's human resources management information system.

It also upgraded its Exari contract document management system and developed "a new reporting system (Open Windows)."

The department also signed a new three-year deal outsourcing managed ICT services to ASG Group during the past financial year.

That deal was expected to result in an upgrade of the department's desktop computer fleet; a switchover to Windows 7 and a network infrastructure review.

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