Budget 2010: Gershon savings ploughed back in


The Federal Government has flagged plans to invest in more than three dozen small technology projects as it makes good on its promise to plough savings eked out after Sir Peter Gershon’s review of government technology spending back into the public sector.

In tonight’s Budget papers, the Government said it would provide $113.6 million over four years from the Information and Communication technology Business-as-Usual Reinvestment Fund (which is composed of half of the claimed Gershon savings) to support the development of 41 minor ICT projects — although we couldn’t find all of them in the budget papers.

The projects would actually result in eventual savings of $1.7 million, the budget papers claimed, due to their ability to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of agencies ICT business as usual activities.

Probably the biggest benefactor from the Gershon dollars was the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which will have $40 million of its new $100.8 million passport IT system funded from that $113.6 million. Further information about the initiative can be found in the department’s media release on the matter.

Second cab off the Gershon rank was the Department of Finance and Deregulation’s project to consolidate datacentre procurement and usage arrangements across the whole of the Federal public sector. That strategy will win $11.9m from the Gershon account over three years. The Government has estimated that it will achieve efficiencies of around $1 billion from the strategy over the next 10 to 15 years.

Regular Budget ICT winner Centrelink will pick up $14.7m to be spent on virtualisation technology from the Gershon account, as well as $8m on ICT shared services as part of its new role providing services to the broader Human Services portfolio.

Finance won Gershon funds to redevelop its Central Budget Management System — a platform which underpins the budget and financial management of the Federal Government. However, the budget papers stated that the amount to be invested would not be for publication for “commercial confidentiality reasons”.

A number of other minor projects won funding from the Gershon account.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry picked up $900,000 for an identity lifecycle management solution and $800,000 for a thin client solution for regional areas, ASIC won $5.1m for a new datacentre strategy, the Bureau of Meteorology got $500,000 for software, $2m for virtualisation, and $900,000 for an upgrade of its business system applications and Geoscience Australia got $2.9 million for storage facilities.

Lastly, Insolvency and Trustee Services Australia won $100,000 for email archiving and $400,000 for improvements to its Debt Agreement Service, Medicare picked up $3.6 million for minor enhancements to its pathology claims systems and $2m to remove hard coding from its assessment systems, and the National Native Title Tribunal got $100,000 for a document management system and $200,000 for an IP telephony platform.

Image credit: Office of Lindsay Tanner


  1. Its great to see these savings being reinvested, but I wonder how much more could still be saved in these new projects if new approaches to government IT procurement and deployment were used? Also, the emphasis appears to be on infrastructure and big, automation projects – I would like to see even a small percentage of this funding being mandated to be focused on fixing the gaps in public sector technology for supporting collaboration and Gov 2.0, as these in turn will support the overall success of the actual projects described here.

    • I would agree with you, James, on the need for funding to support collaboration and Govt 2.0, but I’m not really sure that these things cost any real money to do — I think it’s more of a mindset shift that needs to occur. Most of the money for the big budget infrastructure projects will go into custom code development, i would say — the sorts of large projects that the Govt is planning — for example, a new passports system — tend to have very specific business rules that they must follow.

      I’m not saying I agree with it — I don’t. I am personally in favour of using off the shelf packages as much as possible. But that seems to be the way it is.

      If I were in charge of the budget, I would appoint individual Govt 2.0 “champions” inside each department to try and push that cause — it’s only when people have individual responsibility for things that stuff like this gets up, IMHO.

      • I think you might be surprised how much of that cash will be effectively wasted on the procurement process, designing the solution architecture, business analysis, project management, change management, training, etc, and of course, just plain old time wasting because of re-work, an inability to make a decision or get all the right people in the room at the same time. In reality, coding will make up very little of the activity. Then there are the high than normal support costs that follow immediately as they try to bed in the solution.

        I noticed one agency has $100,000 for a DMS. Just my two cents worth, but they could get a whole DMS+ collaboration platform for that, but I suspect all they’ll get is some clunky EDRMS that after 6 months no one uses.

        • True … the red tape in government is extraordinary. However, I wouldn’t say that money spent on project management would be a waste — after all, so many government IT projects have gone sour or completely failed because of poor project management setups.

          I agree though, that a core problem is in the decision-making capability. I’m a strong believer (and implementing this philosophy in my own business and with the Delimiter publication) in the idea of the intelligent, benevolent dictator, who brings central control and stability for an overall project, but also is flexible enough to listen to ideas and so on.

          Leadership. Not committees.

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