Selected government ICT projects

Budget Review 2016–17 Index

Philip Hamilton

One stated theme of the Budget—transforming government—has a focus on the anticipated benefits of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). In Agency Resourcing: Budget Paper No. 4: 2016–17 the Government states it will ‘increas[e] the focus on innovation and the modernisation of public services and on efficiencies achieved by maximising the opportunities of a digital dividend wherever possible’.[1]

The Budget features a range of ICT-related projects and procurements. The following projects of $10.0 million or more collectively represent a funding commitment of over $635.0 million, and have particular relevance to Whole-of-Government, Cross-portfolio, or Service Delivery issues. It is unclear whether a number of these projects are in fact new measures, as in a number of instances funding has either already been provided for by the Government or commenced in 2015–16. A number of measures are also stated to build on measures in previous budgets.

Various agencies (cross-portfolio)

  • $12.4 million to upgrade IT systems ‘to support greater transparency in the reporting of procurements conducted by limited tendering’. This measure is part of broader funding allocated for government procurement reform over 2016–20 ($15.6 million) in the context of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.[2]

The Treasury; Australian Taxation Office

  • A study ‘into the costs and benefits of adopting electronic invoicing (eInvoicing) by the Australian Government’ to ‘identify the feasibility of eInvoicing’ and its potential. No additional funding will be provided as the Tax Office will fund the costs of the study from its current resources.

Department of Education and Training; Department of Human Services; Department of Social Services

  • $199.4 million over 2016–20 to fund ‘the development of an [ICT] system and to support implementation of the child care measures announced in the Families Package in the 2015–16 Budget’. Budget Measures: Budget Paper No. 2: 2016–17 states that funding has already been provided for this project and will be conditional on a second pass business case. Portfolio budget statements 2016–17: budget related paper no. 1.5: Education and Training Portfolio indicates that the measure was announced subsequent to the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2015–16.[3]

Department of Health

  • $178.3 million over five years from 2015–16 to ‘develop a National Cancer Screening Register to replace current State and Territory registers for the National Cervical Screening Program and the current register for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program’. Only $29.9 million of this is new funding in the 2016–17 Budget;[4] Budget Paper No. 2 states that the bulk of the funding ($148.4 million) has already been provided for and also indicates that the project builds on measures announced in the 2014–15 and 2015–16 budgets.[5]
  • $136.6 million over 2016–20 to ‘support the operation of the My Aged Care contact centre’ to ‘assist the… centre to meet the significant increase in demand for assistance from customers interacting with the aged care system’.

Digital Transformation Office (Prime Minister and Cabinet Portfolio)

  • $50.5 million over five years from 2015–16 for the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) to support myGov operations. This includes $45.1 million over four years for the ‘core operational component’ of myGov and $5.4 million over two years for a joint multi-departmental team ‘to identify future developments to meet user needs’.

CrimTrac (Attorney-General’s Portfolio)

  • $28.9 million in capital funding over three years from 2015–16 for CrimTrac to ‘establish a Biometrics Identification Services (BIS) system’ to replace the existing national fingerprint identification system. Funding will come from both CrimTrac’s existing resources and its Special Account. Budget Paper No. 2 states that the BIS measure builds on a related measure in the 2015–16 Budget.
  • $9.9 million for the ‘development of a Domestic Violence Order (DVO) sharing system’ (the National Order Reference System) by CrimTrac to ‘strengthen the identification and development of DVOs across State and Territory borders for police, partner agencies and the courts’. Funding has already been provided for this measure: Budget Paper No. 2 states that the DVO builds on the Women’s Safety Package measure included the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2015–16.

Department of Veterans' Affairs

  • $24.8 million over two years from 2015–16 for the  development of a second pass business case to ‘simplify and streamline the Department of Veterans' Affairs business processes and replace legacy [ICT] systems’.
  • $23.9 million over 2016–18 to ‘improve the operation and sustainability’ of the department’s existing ICT systems in collaboration with the DHS.

In addition, a number of broader measures in the Budget will almost certainly include ICT components such as the cyber security strategy ($230.0 million); a new biosecurity-related data analytics capability at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources ($15.9 million over four years); and, for the Australian Federal Police, a radio communications replacement ($15.4 million for the first phase), and a new data centre ($32.6 million for the second phase).

Potential risks to monitor

A crucial aspect of ICT projects—implementation—carries a substantial risk profile. As such, the implementation of the Government’s suite of ICT projects will require careful monitoring. The current Auditor-General for Australia, Grant Hehir, identified key factors that can derail implementation of an ICT-related project in his previous role as Auditor-General for NSW:

The major causes of the cost increases and delays have been changes in business requirements and scope, high level of uncertainty in business cases, weaknesses in governance and insufficient program and contract management … The Department also underestimated the support [agencies] needed to successfully implement [the ICT-based program].[6]

Another significant risk factor in relation to government ICT projects is security. One prominent ICT academic and consultant has observed that:

Once operational, the obvious risks to eGovernment relate to data confidentiality and information security. Having a major data breach as a result of a human error, an Edward Snowden-like event, or cyber crime is a real and present danger for individual’s privacy and the potential integrity of the entire eGovernment.[7]

Livingstone further noted that ‘it is imperative that governments internally retain the necessary levels of IT strategic expertise and process probity’.[8]

[1].          Australian Government, Agency resourcing: budget paper no. 4: 2016–17, p. 1.

[2].          The budget figures in this brief have been taken from the following document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2016–17, pp. 62, 67, 71, 78, 109, 110, 134, 137, 150, 154, 166 and 167.

[5].          The 2015–16 Budget indicated that work would ‘commence to establish a single National Cancer Screening Register’ in 2015–16 but did not specify funding: Portfolio Budget Statements 2015–16: budget related paper no. 1.10: Health Portfolio, p. 41.

[6].          Audit Office of NSW, ‘Learning Management and Business Reform (LMBR) program’, Audit Office of NSW website, 16 December 2014.

[7].          R Livingstone, ‘Digital by default – efficient eGovernment or costly flop?The Conversation website, 5 May 2014.

[8].          Ibid.


All online articles accessed May 2016. 

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