Purge: Qld Govt cuts 384 IT contractors


news The new LNP Queensland State Government today revealed that it had terminated the contracts of some 384 technology contractors in total over the past few months, as it ramps up its drive to slash technology-related spending while simultaneously remediating dated IT systems left to languish by the previous Labor administration.

The state’s IT Minister Ros Bates reportedly told AAP today that the total number of contractors which had been cut since the state’s Liberal National Party took power in March this year cut was 384. In a separate statement on her website, Bates said the moves were already saving the Government some $40,000 an hour — amounting to about $1.6 million a week.

“Labor’s waste and reckless financial mismanagement has seen millions of taxpayer dollars wasted on contractors every month,” said Bates. “Clearly, contractors should only be hired to service areas where the Government doesn’t already have the necessary skill set. The amount being squandered is outrageous, with Queensland’s debt fast approaching $100 billion.”

The cuts come a month after the Courier-Mail newspaper reported that IT jobs were also on the line in some Queensland departments. “The Sunday Mail has been told 180 temporary IT staff in the Department of Education – whose contracts end on June 30 – will be told tomorrow they are not needed after some had long-term contracts with the Government for years,” the newspaper reported in late May.

Bates’ revelation of the depth of the cuts to Queensland’s technology workforce comes as the State Government is also planning to reveal this week an interim report auditing its entire technology-related operations, including IT projects, staff and existing systems.

Bates said the audit was the first of its kind in Queensland’s history and she was confident it would find “even more savings for taxpayers”. The report, according to Bates, “painted a bleak picture” when it came to the currency of Queensland’s technology systems, with some 997 applications across the state’s public sector not having been replaced when need and now being out of date. “Many of these systems have already reached the end of their functional life span, yet there are absolutely no plans in place to replace them,” Bates said. “For years Labor has neglected the fact that these systems would need to be upgraded, and now we’ve got an incredibly serious problem on our hands that could cost up to $6 billion dollars to fix.”

“This presents a huge challenge, as we work towards our reform agenda and bring the State’s finances under control.” The LNP Queensland Government has engaged a team of specialists to work alongside auditors, in an effort to identify cost-effective solutions. A full audit will be handed down on October 30, 2012.

According to the Courier-Mail: “Among the applications at risk of failure is the Department of Community Safety’s core human resources management program, a “business critical” system handling leave and pay arrangements for frontline workers, including firefighters and paramedics.”

Queensland has also taken other measures in its efforts to cut IT-related costs across its operations. In a brief statement to Delimiter in July, Paul Campbell, executive officer of the state-funded ICT Industry Workgroup, confirmed that his office had had its funding cut, after a detailed report on ZDNet.com outed the situation.

Also several weeks, new Queensland Technology Minister Ros Bates issued a media release noting that the state was planning to kick off a wide-ranging program aimed at cutting the amount of money it spent on printing. Bates said a senior level officer in each department would be assigned to manage and coordinate print services, including budget and consolidating print-related purchases.

However, at least one area will see increased spending. In late August, Bates revealed plans to consolidate eight “outmoded and heavily customised” payroll IT systems being used by her department into one outsourced system, in a move which will re-ignite the debate over how the state should provide core IT services supporting administrative functions to its various departments and agencies.

Bates said that in the coming months the Government would go to market “to replace eight government-run systems with one outsourced system”. “It’s ridiculous that one department has eight standalone payroll systems that don’t talk to each other. I’m planning on bringing the eight payroll systems together,” Bates said. The Minister added that tenders would be called in the coming months for the new standalone system.

“Our current systems are akin to driving a 1972 Ford clunker with the original tyres which has missed most of its services,” said Bates. “We are paying IT specialists exorbitant amounts of money to gaffer tape our system so we can pay our staff.” Bates said it was time to create single efficient and cost effective system, adding that the LNP had inherited ‘profound’ problems in IT from the previous Labor administration.

The cuts in Queensland continue. Without visibility into which departments these hundreds of IT contractors were working for, or what projects they were working on, it’s hard to know whether the cuts are justified or not. I’m sure some of them were — but I’m equally sure that others were doing valuable and necessary work. This kind of purge tends to be a bit indiscriminate at times. In any case, it’s probably not a great time to be an IT contractor in Queensland.

If anyone has any more specific details about which departments have been hit, we would love it if you would file those details (including any internal documentation, if possible) through Delimiter’s Anonymous Tips form. It’d be good to keep a level of running transparency as to what Bates and her razor gang are up to, precisely. And if you use this form, even we won’t know who you are ;)


  1. Unfortunately, the only people producing any meaningful results in the IT sections of the Qld Government were these contractors. They may cost twice as much, but they actually produce 5-10 times the results, thus delivering value for money.

    The LNP may think it is saving money, but it is actually destroying outcomes. False economy.

    • I’d be fascinated to know what evidence you have to back that statement up, because the position of the new government is precisely the opposite – their soundbites that related to these cuts all indicate that many of these contractors have been working on projects that have not delivered anything (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-09-03/audit-reveals-massive-glitch-in-government-it/4239250?section=qld ), or have long since finished and the contractors have simply remained on the books (http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8526245 ).

      Note I’m not saying you’re wrong – I’ve certainly heard similar stories from people who have worked in IT in Qld – but it directly contradicts what we are being told was the outcome of the audit, so if you have evidence that indicates otherwise I would be extremely interested in hearing more.

      I believe the results of the audit are not yet publicly available so I look forward to seeing more about them too.

      • The contractors do the work not call the shots. The case in QLD was nearlty entierly the public servants screwing up. Going ahead with the system despite the testing team telling management it was not ready, shifting the severity of defects to a lower level to pass standards etc

      • troq – I fail to see how the articles you refer to justify the conclusions that “many of these contractors have been working on projects that have not delivered anything, or have long since finished and the contractors have simply remained on the books.” That is just a broad assertion by a politician to justify their actions.

        My original point is that contractors actually deliver far greater value for money than permies, basically because permie salaries are uncompetitive, resulting in limited overall capability – hence the need for contractors. I also agree with Rory that many (not all) of the stuff-ups result from decisions made by senior public servants against the advice of consultants / contractors.

        I agree the system needs fixing, but removing those who actually do the job is not going to achieve that. The LNP’s agenda is to ask the commercial market to perform this role (the yellow pages model). So, instead of the contractors working for themselves under contract to and ‘guidance’ from middle level public servants (i.e. role-based), they will be working for tier 1 and 2 vendors, who will be contracted to deliver outcomes (i.e. project based, under the guidance of senior public servants.

        This will cost more (contractor rates circa 1200/day versus consultant rates circa 1800/day), with the potential to produce better outcomes, but with a problematic track record (i.e. as per the Qld Health Payroll epic).

        Meanwhile, Brisbane contractors with those essential skills have moved to other markets (Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, O/S) in order to earn, leaving Brisbane lacking.

        • roq – I fail to see how the articles you refer to justify the conclusions that “many of these contractors have been working on projects that have not delivered anything, or have long since finished and the contractors have simply remained on the books.” That is just a broad assertion by a politician to justify their actions.

          Correct, but presumably the audit report will be released so we will be able to inspect the evidence that she is basing those claims on.

          I am merely saying that I’m yet to see any evidence at all (let alone convincing evidence) from the “contractors are good’ camp. You need to provide evidence that supports the claim that contractors are better for government because they save money in the long term (or whatever your position is).

          My point is that the “contractors are bad” camp is claiming to have this evidence (the audit) and as a result, have made the decision to axe them. When the audit report is released, we’ll be able to see this evidence (again, I assume) and judge for ourselves.

          The “contractors are good” camp need to cite some specific examples of a successful contractor-based work showing how it saved money or whatever. Maybe the audit will have some of these as well.

          (FWIW, I’m in the private sector in software development and I simply cannot fathom what sort of job is worth paying a contractor thousands of dollars an hour for that you couldn’t outsource to a Queensland company, for better results at a lower cost. )

          What I do find encouraging is that the current government looks like they’re creating an aura of accountability. So that way whether it is the contractors that are blowing away all my tax dollars or slack useless permanent position public servants or whatever, someone will be held to account for it. Hopefully this is not just a facade of responsibility that we’re seeing in these early days and they’ll stick with it.

          • Rarely is the world just black and white. It is never easy to attain balance, for any of us.

  2. I completely concur – I have worked in government departments and the IT staff are often so hopeless getting contractors in is the only option.
    And yet these people are in positions to tell the contractors what to do?
    It is unbelievable.
    I hated working for the Qld Govt and I hope there is plenty of private jobs to go around.
    I’m in the private sector now and it is much better.

    • As a frontline IT support person in Qld State Government, I cannot agree with you John. The problem isn’t the general “IT staff” but mid level management. There is no direction in IT in State Government, every initiative is shot down by mid level bureaucrats frightened of change (a very bad idea in an IT world), and always looking to cost cut to “save taxpayers money”, then operational staff get blamed because they threw out their best practices as well.

      Case in point, the Qld Health payroll system, where mid level management wanted to say that the project was successful and completed by a certain date and treated themselves to a party on the roof while the operational frontline staff worked around the clock (all the while alerting them that it wasn’t going to go well).

      But oh … it’s the “IT staff” that’s the issue. Give me a break.

    • I would concur to disagree with you John. I have worked with some incredibly talented people and terrible ones over the years, in both the Private and Government Sectors. Each of those environments has its plusses and minuses, but before you shoot the messengers, know why sometimes some talented people fail in what should not be a really big issue.
      I think we’ve all been involved with something that we can see is dumb, but do you tar those people as useless because they know to fight against their Management will see difficulties for themselves and family. Let alone, we all know how the Employment Market looks upon that.
      Now most people know that with Politicians, you get some good ones, you get some bad ones, and you can get some really crooked and dreadful ones. Now here is the horrible bit for you John, The Employment market is in jitters and the economy after the GFC is slowing. The outlook is uncertain and will be for some time. Your Boss comes to you and tells you he wants “Outcome X” but he’s made a political promise not spend nor Staff your team to do this rather large project. Of course, if it fails, who’s fault will it be? Now mind you, you don’t have all the assets you own now, you’re just an ordinary Aussie with a mortgage and family and you want the best for them you can provide. Don’t us all.
      a. You tell him to shove it where the sun don’t shine and quit.
      b. You advise of the issues with the project, but they rebuff and advise you can leave or do it.
      c. You take on board as best you can and try to do your best, hoping you won’t get too much interference politically, as long as you can quietly achieve the best you can.
      This is an easy one. Try it when your task is designed to fail in order to achieve a political desire and you’re the fall guy. That is the most irritating and annoying thing you can suffer.
      So ease up mate. Stop insulting your fellow Australians and insult those who do the commanding. After all, most of us can only do what we are told to in our Jobs.

  3. There are definitely major problems with how the Qld government wastes so much money on contractors. I’m not stating that the contractors don’t do a good job but I am stating that recruitment agencies pick up outrageous amounts of money for little work. For example, one of my friends got a contract for $100 an hour and yet the recruitment agency took $20 an hour out of that! For what, introducing an employee to a government agency! So while he was working there for one year the recruiter skimmed $40,000 for that year! And this is not uncommon amongst government agencies using recruitment agencies.

  4. “…the LNP had inherited ‘profound’ problems in IT from the previous Labor administration”

    I love how they’re talking about the huge IT challenges ahead, while at the very same time boasting that they just fired hundreds of IT staff. Somehow I don’t think this was properly thought through.

  5. Good, keep firing I want a smaller government not full of bloated overpaid workers which are pushing my taxes up left right and centre.

    I was about to hire a young IT worker once, offered him $65k starting wage he was kind of a junior with not a great experience level. 5 days before he was going to start he told me he got a job at QLD Police department managing servers. Wage : $120,000 starting wage. God only knows what he is on after being there for 3 years. In the private sector he’d have to be a rockstar to get that money but in the public sector where they are spending other peoples money (stolen in taxes) its all on given away.

    Fire the lot and rehire as cheaper with rules like :no result no pay. And lower our damn taxes this place is getting stupidly expensive to live. Don’t know how most of you do it.

    • Well putting the political hyperbole aside, wouldn’t you take up a position that paid more if it was obvious you could show you could do the job? I am sorry, but all I saw in this was your justification for exploitation of other workers who should be happy with less as you decree. If that is not your goal in what you have written, I am sorry, for that is what it looks like.

  6. TechinBris, you have, I believe, missed the GPs point – that government salaries have been so far out of wack with the rest of the market that it has had flow-on effects that mean private businesses find it really, really hard to compete against these massive government salaries.

    Certainly noone I know of in the private sector is looking to “exploit workers”, as you suggest. It is hard enough to compete against each other, but when the government is thrown into the mix offering 2-10 times the hourly rate, it makes things a little more complicated.

    • I can see where you are coming from, but your synopsis is a bit of looking through rose colored glasses. I think we’ve all heard from Market advocates that if you want the better talent, you pay for it. And if the “Market” wont and the Government will, the Government should lose out so the “Market” can have to best of both worlds? It is not always the Government roles are the better paid, but often the other way around. Small business gets caught in the flack between both ends of Big Business and Government so they join in on the “WOE IS ME!” crying we seem to hear from everyone. So who is lying? Who is telling the truth. No one is to put it bluntly.
      Some people will take lower salary, but trade that off for a more secure position as they desire stability in their employment and are less prone to distortions and manipulations of the Corporate sector manipulations that work in order to bolster the bottom line amiable to an Executive bonus.
      We could nit pick this to till the Kingdom of the Fairy’s of the blue blukfoo arrives on the front doorstep by Courier.
      But in a nutshell, Market forces will be distorted by any other thing except that which is of the market. Why, dreadful we have to spell it out, but the market has to pay it’s way PLUS pay it’s investors with dividend. Other operators that are not part of the “Market” don’t. The Market philosophy is a flawed model which continually bleats about things not being fair but rarely plays fair itself. It is the old left and right argument which goes in circles. Capitalism and Communism are just the polar opposites on a circle with a line drawn through one side of it. Communism will fail to human greed and work toward systemic failure and advocate, eventually, Capitalism. Capitalism followed though to the end game is the final Corporation winning out over all others, becoming the owner of all, thus the State, thus becoming the very thing it abhorred, Communism. I call call it all shit because the whole lot is shit for brains. It’s exploitation under any excuse to hyperbole created to to excuse the abuse. To say no one would do such a thing is wearing rose colored glasses or one is living under a rock.

  7. It’s not until everything has collapsed or is falling apart that the government or the private sector realize how important IT is. IT needs to be seen as a core element or backbone of every environment.

Comments are closed.