Tech governance shake-up delays IT healing in Victoria

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Tech governance shake-up delays IT healing in Victoria

Auditor finds digital state government still out of reach.

The Victorian government is still yet to realise its whole-of-government vision for digital service delivery despite handing down the strategy two years ago, the state's auditor-general has found.

In his report released today [pdf], auditor John Doyle indicated the vision may continue to remain in limbo as the new Labor government undergoes a shake-up of governance structures.

Doyle revealed nearly all the major roles and organisations governing public sector IT prior to the November 2014 state election had either been dissolved or faced uncertain futures.

The role of chief technology advocate, vacated by Grantly Mailes in March, has been scrapped, as has VICTAC, the panel of public and private sector experts convened to advise on the state’s digital strategy. The panel had featured members like former Coles CIO Conrad Harvey.

The statuses of the inter-agency CIO Council and CIO Executive Council “remain unknown”, the report revealed, pending a review of service delivery across the state by the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The audit office said the DPC had confirmed the ICT strategy released by the former Coalition state government would also be subject to the review, along with any related ICT policies, standards and guidelines.

“The continuous uncertainty and instability of the ICT governance risks further deterioration of strategic ICT leadership and oversight required in the Victorian government,” the audit report warned.

Doyle and his team opted to only review the period from 2013 to January 2015, when the new Labor government begun its round of internal restructuring.

The audit office put the unsatisfactory progress in the state's realisation of its digital service delivery dream up to that point down to a “lack of control at a whole-of-public-sector level—particularly weak strategic leadership and ownership of ICT governance”.

It said no authority had effectively monitored whether agencies were actually meeting the actions assigned to them under the state’s IT strategy.

Doyle said the digital governance branch of IT lead agency the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation (DSDBI) had treated the strategy’s list of actions as “more of a guidance document” than a set of items agencies could be held accountable to.

Difficulty with data

The state’s digital ambition, which included the transfer of the government’s highest-volume transactions online, was also marred by poor data and a lack of agency cooperation in providing data.

The audit office's survey of government services found only 11 of 25 participating agencies could attest to the volumes of transactions they were delivering and what those operations cost.

Only eight of these offered up transaction volume data good enough for the government to rely on, and only two had dependable figures on what the services cost to deliver.

Doyle reiterated his ongoing commitment to pressure the state to improve its IT management, which has already seen him launch a dedicated program of IT audits to run across the coming three years.

He warned the public sector should not expect him to tone down his campaign any time soon.

“This audit highlights the need for my office to maintain vigilance across the ICT portfolio within the Victorian public sector," he wrote.

“Despite being hampered by limited resources, and an outdated mandate which restricts me from examining public sector services and projects undertaken by the private sector, my office will continue to apply greater scrutiny and analysis of ICT projects and initiatives through the conscientious lens of independent enquiry on behalf of Victorian taxpayers."

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