The project to replace Queensland’s emergency services payroll, deemed in some ways to be more complex than the health project that defeated the state government five years ago, is officially in trouble.
The former LNP government kicked off the replacement and possible outsourcing of the emergency services pay run in its first budget in 2012. The project would move the fire, ambulance and prisons service off a LATTICE system built in the early 1990s.
The corporate services unit serving the state’s emergency services, the Public Service Business Agency, has picked a preferred supplier for the $101 million project.
But according to the government’s own IT transparency website, the contract signing is on hiatus while the new Labor government conducts a “review of government policy”.
The delay means that in three years since the project was first unveiled, the PSBA is still without a primary contractor and has only spent one-fifth of the funds directed to the scheme.
The agency has also yet to fill a number of funded roles attached to the initiative.
In February the PSBA successfully applied for a deferral of project funds that were allocated for the 2014-15 year. It then applied to push back a second batch of spending in June.
The hold-up has attracted a “critical” red light status on the state’s ICT dashboard, which tracks the progress of major Queensland government IT projects. Red indicates that action is required to get the initiative back within acceptable time, budget and performance parameters.
The PSBA is remaining tight lipped on the exact nature of the project’s circumstances, however.
In a statement to iTnews, PSBA CEO Kelvin Anderson insisted the agency was still aiming to have the LATTICE replacement up and running by its original December 2017 deadline, despite the delays.
“The program remains within its allocated budget and will transition its agencies from the current payroll system by December 2017,” he said.
“[It] is continuing to prepare its partner agencies for the transition from the current payroll system.”
The PSBA refused to comment further on the circumstances around the delays, or the nature of the policy review that is holding up proceedings.
It also declined to name the preferred vendor until the contract has been executed.
When the project was originally funded, the then-LNP government made it clear it was considering outsourcing the service to the private sector, in line with the smaller government push demanded by Peter Costello’s Queensland commission of audit.
A request for tender issued in March 2014 put the call out for both software-as-a-service HR management solutions and full business process outsourcing options.
But since coming to power in January, the Labor government has begun work to roll back many of the LNP’s outsourcing pledges, including the proposed sell-off of government IT provider CITEC.
The payroll headache will ring alarm bells in a state still picking up the pieces of the $1.2 billion failure of the state health department's attempt to replace its own LATTICE solution with a new set of SAP systems in 2010.
The emergency payroll scheme represents an even more complex feat than health payroll, with three different agencies and each of their complex pay structures and award conditions be covered by the solution the state puts in place.