news Melbourne-based newspaper The Age reported this morning that police had been called in to investigate Victorian Government IT shared services agency CenITex, following an audit that had revealed public servants awarded themselves a contract eventually worth some $1.5 million.
According to the newspaper, which has an extensive article online about the issue, some six contractors and staff have been sacked, and an organisation-wide review ordered of the agency by the State Government. Neither CenITex’s spokesperson nor a spokesperson for the Government immediately returned calls seeking confirmation of The Age’s report. Enquiries to the office of the state’s technology minister and assistant treasurer, Gordon Rich-Phillips, were directed to an alternative contact believed to be within the State Government’s central media enquiries unit.
CenITex was set up in July 2008 from the merger of the previous Shared Services Centre and Information & Technology Services divisions under the Department of Treasury and Finance, and has since rolled in a number of major departments and agencies to use its services, such as the Departments of Human Services (health) and Justice.
However, as with a number of public sector IT shared services initiatives, its establishment has not been without its controversies — including a reported attempt to convert its large contractor base to permanent public sector roles. The organisation was also slapped on the wrist by the state’s auditor in December 2009 for failing to follow best practices in its agency contracts.
The organisation appointed a new chief executive in May this year, with the new appointee, Michael Vanderheide, having left a short-lived role leading the Victorian Police’s IT function to take up the CenITex role. Vanderheide was appointed to the Victoria Police role in 2009 after a lengthy career helping lead the ACT Government’s own shared services efforts.
At the time Vanderheide joined Victoria Police, the organisation was itself reeling from the resignation of his predecessor in November 2008. The executive left Victoria Police under a cloud, with an investigation into its IT department finding 12 months later that it had had a “disregard for proper procurement and contract management”.
There have also been a series of other contract improprieties revealed within the wider Victorian Government over the past several years when it comes to the area of technology. For example, a number of reports have also highlighted probity issues within the Government’s handling of contracts associated with its troubled myki public transport smartcard rollout.
There are few things that would surprise me about CenITex any more, but I do have a fair degree of confidence that Michael Vanderheide can eventually get things under control — he seemed quite capable and above board when I interviewed him last year.