Govt agencies fall short on IT

09/07/2014 - 13:08

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The Department of Health’s $6 million bungle at Fiona Stanley Hospital is just one example of government agencies dropping the ball on information technology projects.

WARNINGS: Colin Murphy says the complexity of the Fiona Stanley project should have raised alarm bells. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The Department of Health’s $6 million bungle at Fiona Stanley Hospital is just one example of government agencies dropping the ball on information technology projects.

Last week, auditor general Colin Murphy released a report on the identity access management project at the hospital, which failed to deliver any outcomes despite $6 million being spent on its development.

His investigation found the department (WA Health) seriously failed in its management of the project and failed to even put forward a business case for the system, which was intended to give staff automated access to computer system and physical buildings.

The system was seen as key to the $2 billion hospital being a ‘paperless’ environment, with staff using only digital technology.

However, development of the system continued for two more years after the paperless vision was abandoned.

Mr Murphy said the complexity of IT rollouts at the hospital meant the identity access management project simply fell through the cracks, and thus, money continued to be funnelled into its development despite it no longer being an integral part of the IT design.

Mr Murphy said the complexity of the Fiona Stanley project should have raised alarm bells.

“The IT environment, with so many different players, has just had too many silos, too many bits managing it,” he said.

“It’s big and it’s complex, so that’s a warning sign.”

It’s not the first time WA Health has come under fire from the auditor general; in 2010 it was heavily criticised for failing to follow adequate procedures during its purchase of a core part of the state's healthcare IT capability.

The department took eight years to decide patient administration systems in state hospitals needed upgrading, and then proceeded to buy a web-based system (called WebPAS) without running a proper tendering process.

That system is now being implemented at Fiona Stanley Hospital as a fallback from WA Health’s failure to create a new entirely digital system.

At an Australian Information Industry Association event in Perth last week, Mr Murphy said inadequate management of information technology projects were common across all government agencies.

Most alarming, he said, was the fact that only 40 per cent were adhering to acceptable data security practices, down from 44 per cent a year earlier.

Mr Murphy said another failed government IT project – the Office of Shared Services – had led to an unstable environment amid agencies that bred inadequate security.

The Office of Shared Services was launched in 2005 and intended to centralise back-office IT systems for government agencies.

It was wound up in 2013 after having cost the state government more than $500 million.

Mr Murphy said it had prompted less than satisfactory IT management among government agencies as they tried to accommodate the changes.

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