Analysis: $400m cost for big government

The financial disaster called the Office of Shared Services explodes the myth that bigger is better – a lesson for everyone, including health officials, who thinks centralising bureaucracy is anything but about consolidating power.


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Unless I'm mistaken, the business of government is to deliver services to the community and the electorate. Like the private sector, better services at an efficient and fair price are what we all desire. Our most recent state governments have forgotten the service side and focussed entoirely on the cost side. But there's a hidden agenda here which is all about control and power. Richard Court's government cleverly devolved the business responsibility - for service delivery and cost accountability - to the CEO's of each department, a model which is consistent with the role of a board instructing their managment team. It worked......until succesive governments realised the power they had lost. Centrallisation is all about power, not cost effectiveness. Don't be duped into believing this government has any interest in reducing costs to the electorate.

When this approach was first mooted the Government of the day was advised of the impending disaster ahead. The world was littered with example of failure, yet for some reason we could make it work! Never in a "pink fit!" Now we will be up for millions of dollars decommissioning OSS and then up for millions of dollars for new systems in each Government Department as they will require new systems. The only one who is laughing is the big "O". There is no doubt Labor has the Midas Touch! Noy! OSS, the disater on Welington Street etc.Oh well I woner what else will turn up?

Mark, an interesting analysis as always. Having been an interested observer and participant in the game of selling IT services to the WA government for many years, it comes as no surprise that this fiasco is now being terminated and the pretence of possible future savings exposed for what it always was - a sham. The problem in WA was not so much one of bigger being better or worse. The problem with the OSS model (imo) was that it was never a greenfields site. The technology to achieve shared services outcomes was available, and would have been relatively easy to implement if the state was starting from scratch. Changing technology would have been easy if that was all that was being changed. More importantly, and far more difficult to change were the work practices, cultures and bureaucratic fiefdoms of both the incumbent suppliers and public servants involved. Add to that the selected OSS implementation consultants riding the rich OSS gravy train and ego-driven politicians and public servants not wanting to admit mistakes and the OSS mess got progressively worse and always more expensive.

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