Auditor-General calls for Vic public service IT rethink

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The Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) has called for a rethink around the public service’s approach to sourcing, managing and governing its complex IT projects.

The recommendation follows a VAGO audit to assess whether the Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS) rolled out its new infringements system in an effective and cost-efficient way.

In 2017, DJCS launched the Victorian Infringements Enforcement Warrant (VIEW) system, a new IT system to manage fines and incorporate social justice initiatives. The original budget to build the new IT system was $46 million, but by January 2021, DJCS had spent more than $125 million developing and improving view, as well as on workarounds.

The Auditor-General’s report found that DJCS’s overall governance of the VIEW project was ineffective. “As a high value high risk (HVHR) project, it posed significant risk and materiality to the state. However, DJCS’s governance arrangements, oversight and reporting were not commensurate with the project’s importance and challenging nature.

“DJCS failed to fully inform the Attorney-General about the project’s substantial risks and likely consequences, did not harness the required expertise and did not adequately respond to findings from DTF’s gateway reviews, which are intended to identify and address risks to significant government projects.”

The Department’s failures in planning the VIEW project meant that its implementation did not meet the expected time, cost, quality and functionality targets. “These failures were mainly due to DJCS’s misguided and poorly implemented risk mitigation strategy to procure a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) system. This is because no COTS system existed, or could reasonably be expected to exist, that could meet DJCS’s complex requirements.”

The Auditor-General’s report concluded that the Victorian public service must rethink its approach to sourcing, managing and governing its complex IT projects to avoid these issues recurring. “It must also re-examine its approach to providing robust advice to the government, especially when the government may not be receptive to the advice.”

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