Preview: Few pockets of light in another thrifty budget

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Preview: Few pockets of light in another thrifty budget
Parliament House.

Implications for Defence, Human Services, Tax and other agencies.

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Tommorow's Budget will be a tough one for many IT companies and practitioners reliant on public sector business, insiders and analysts say.

Ovum public sector research director Kevin Noonan has predicted another "thrifty" budget - especially for the IT industry.

"The first budget in the political cycle is the thrifty budget. The next is the 'engine-room' budget where the Government has to be seen to be getting on and delivering on it promises at full-speed ahead," Noonan told iTnews.

Government tax receipts are $6.55 billion behind mid-year economic forecasts, with some reports suggesting a $50 billion deficit.

The ALP Government has reiterated its pre-election committment to a surplus in 2012-13, making a thrifty budget a fair bet for 2011/12.

Predictions: Winners and losers


The biggest victims of budget cuts will be large agencies tasked with cost reductions under the 'efficiency dividends' program.

As revealed on iTnews, larger agencies have been asked to cut budgets by 1.5 percent for the next two fiscal years in an attempt to save $465 million.

These cost reductions target portfolios rather than individual agencies, so there is scope to "share the pain", Noonan said.

But insiders have told iTnews that larger agencies within each portfolio would likely bear the brunt of cuts. These agencies would likely be the ATO within Treasury, Centrelink at Human Services, Customs at the Attorney General's Department and so forth.

IT procurement could slow as Departments cast a closer eye on how money is spent. Insiders expect heightened interest in centrally controlled and whole-of-Government procurement schemes from the Department of Finance's AGIMO (Australian Government Information Management Office).

Finance plans to produce benchmarking reports across all Governments as early as February 2012 to help weed out unwieldy spending. Noonan said this exercise was overdue.

"In the past, it was only the big ICT suppliers that had this insight across Government and among different sectors. Without this benchmarking process there was no way of seeing the difference in prices that people were paying for a slice of technology," he said.

Pressures on Defence

One of the other losers is likely to be the biggest ICT spender in the Australian Government: the Department of Defence.

In the past three years, Defence has consolidated its pool of IT contractors under the 'Strategic Reform Program'.

Announced in 2009, the program aims to make back-office functions "more business-like", "efficient" and "prudent in its use of resources".

This would be achieved through "shared service delivery models" and a review to "determine the appropriate mix and size of our workforce that balances capability risk and workforce cost".

On Friday, Defence Minister Stephen Smith foreshadowed the axing of 1000 civilian jobs to save $300 million.

Sources told iTnews that any reduction in corporate services staff is likely to have implications on IT projects.

Read on as iTnews' team predicts which agencies and projects will win funding...

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