Suing IBM over the failed Queensland Health payroll project would likely have turned into a time-consuming “he said, she said” debacle, according to former Queensland health minister Paul Lucas.
Lucas took to the stand yesterday on the last formal day of hearings in the Commission of Inquiry investigating the bungled payroll system replacement project, which is expected to cost Queensland taxpayers more than $1.2 billion to fix.
Asked repeatedly why the state had not pursued litigation with IBM, Lucas, who practiced law prior to becoming a minister, continually highlighted the concern that suing IBM would not help ensure Health employees got paid correctly.
“If I thought that we could have sued IBM and not had a risk or a downside with respect to our staff then that would have been a completely different picture, but it wasn't like that,” Lucas told the inquiry.
“This would turn ultimately on who said what to whom, in what meeting when, what was reasonably within it, and that was simply a very, very complex thing that ultimately might be resolved by questions of credit,” he said.
He said had legal action been taken rather than an inquiry, the State would still be in a trial today.
When later pressed on the issue, Lucas also said public servants could not be called upon as reliable witnesses.
“Many public servants are not skilled or educated in relation to the commercial realities of dealing with other people. Someone like IBM, it is their bread and butter, they do it every week.”
Lucas told the inquiry he shared the view held by former Public Works Director-General Mal Grierson that the payroll system may have fallen over should IBM walk from the project.
“His effect was that, "If we don't settle, you know, these guys will walk away from it. You know what the consequences of that is, we need them."
Click here for full coverage of the Queesland Health payroll inquiry.