Centrelink issues $500m+ telco tender


update Welfare agency Centrelink has kicked off a gigantic purchasing effort which will see it consolidate a number of telecommunications contracts into a number of overarching deals expected to be worth in excess of $500 million in total.

The initiative is part of a consolidation effort kicked off by Human Services Minister Chris Bowen last year, which is increasingly seeing the technology infrastructure of a number of agencies — such as Centrelink and Medicare — integrated under former Centrelink CIO and now Human Services deputy secretary of ICT infrastructure John Wadeson. The agency was reported to have told ZDNet.com.au, which appears to have first broken this story, that its new telco deals would would be worth more than $500 million in total.

“It is anticipated that the total life value of the contracts, for this RFT phase and the later phase using the AGIMO arrangements, will exceed $500 million,” confirmed a Centrelink spokesperson.

Centrelink is known to have signed a $185 million managed voice services contract with its incumbent supplier Telstra in December 2004, in a five-year contract. But Telstra won’t be the only company to be affected by the consolidation.

“There are 20-plus separate contracts within the Human Services portfolio covering telecommunications services,” said the Centrelink spokesperson. “These services are provided by vendors such as Telstra, Optus, NEC, EDS, Dimension Data, UECOMM, NextGen and SPT. This means 20-plus separate telecommunication arrangements across the Human Services Portfolio will be rolled into a streamlined arrangement by January 2013.”

In tender documents issued last week, Centrelink said one of the first priorities in the so-called Service Delivery Reform project was the integration of enabling services such as telecommunications — as it was a step that would support “all other changes”.

The request for tender document issued by Centrelink is seeking a single service provider to provide managed telephony, contact centre and videoconferencing services across Human Services, as well as telephony carriage services.

A number of other services — such as data and internet telecommunications services — will be sourced through a separate whole of government panel arrangement which the Australian Government Information Management Office is currently setting up. Centrelink expects to ramp up that purchasing initiative “in the first half of 2011”.

At that stage Centrelink was not planning to utilise IP telephony technology. However, in the request for tender documents issued last week, the agency said the provision of IP telephony would be a requirement of the deal — including handsets, call management systems and so on. Centrelink is also requiring the provision of modern videoconferencing technology, at both a room-based level as well as personal videoconferencing for Centrelink staff on their desktops.

The new telecommunications contracts, according to the documents, will replace three separate telecommunications approaches currently used by Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency with one unified structure.

The news comes as Centrelink has also recently been engaged in a number of other technology purchasing initiatives. In November, for example, it flagged plans to replace its mid-range x86-based server fleet and in September it issued a $40 million storage as a service tender.

Image credit: Amanda Slater, Creative Commons