Parliament runs out of money for Win7 rollout



blog Your writer has become accustomed over time to the depths of incompetence which our great Federal Government is capable of sinking to when it comes to deploying and managing IT infrastructure. Remember the time when Federal Parliament revealed plans to deploy Windows Vista, more than a year after Windows 7 was released? Or the time a report revealed that the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) had “no parliament-wide IT strategic plan” and no mechanism for making strategic IT decisions, despite a decade of reports warning of the situation? Yeah.

But this one really takes the cake. In an exchange in a Senate Estimates hearing yesterday (PDF transcript here), first reported to our knowledge by ZDNet, DPS secretary Carol Mills revealed the department didn’t have enough money to complete the rollout to Windows 7 it has been working on. Yup, that’s right. Mills said:

“The challenge that we have identified is not that the department of finance did not hand over an equivalent amount of money to that which they were spending. One of the challenges for us is the move from leased to purchased equipment which means that rather than a smooth leasing fee we have a large upfront fee in replacing equipment with a capital spend.

We also found in our survey of offices a large number of items that were really out of date and, for example, although they were operating, some of the equipment cannot operate under Windows 7 so it has to be replaced. Now that is not necessarily a problem that the finance department was fully aware of; they were not managing that system. It does mean that, as I think I indicated at the last estimates, we have a funding gap of around $2 million to do a full rollout and that is why we are doing it on a priority basis. We will roll everything out but we have had to do it over two financial years rather than one, which would have been more desirable.”

Liberal Senator Senator Scott Ryan then said: “So a $2 million funding gap is, following your analysis of the equipment and the varying state of it, in terms of bringing everyone up to the same standard for the Windows 7 rollout. It that the description of it?” Mills replied: “That is right, yes.”

On the one hand it’s easy to understand how the Parliament could screw this up. Oh, wait. No, no it’s not. $2 million is not just the kind of money you find behind the couch. You really wonder how a government which is capable of deploying a $37 billion National Broadband Network still manages to be incapable of upgrading its parliamentarians’ desktops to Windows 7 within budget. *sigh* Sounds like new DPS chief information officer Eija Seittenranta has a job of work ahead of her. And why is DPS purchasing desktop machines anyway? Hasn’t leasing pretty much become the standard option for desktop infrastructure by now? None of this makes any sense.

Image credit: Microsoft


  1. I wouldnt be blaming the Government on this one, but the Department. Its their ineptitude that’s created the situation, not anything Labor did.

      • Sure, but that’s like blaming the CIO for something a low level Analyst did.

      • Renai – ministers nowadays have no contact with departments. They set policy which is then ‘interpreted’ by the public servants. The layers of advisers, contract executives & consultants mean that there is no chance that a minister can ever be directly associated with actual implementation of policies.
        By this mechanism they dilute blame and separate authority and responsibility.

        So, short answer – no, the Secretary is in charge but only in a very nebulous way.

  2. If the Coalition get in they can roll out cheaper Windows XP with the option for employees to upgrade at their own costs. Windows 7 is such a Rolls Royce solution ;)

  3. First the subpoena for the Microsoft price enquiry, THEN purchase all the copies of Windows 7.
    “Left hand, what were you thinking?” asks Right hand.

  4. Government departments are the only place you see leasing a computers (for pretty much the cost of a new pc each year) , then after 3 years entering into an agreement to buy the computers they already leased thus buying out of date equipment that you have already paid for *sigh*

    Maybe working within the WA Public sector has jaded me

  5. One of the smartest moves the Government made was NOT putting the NBN in the hands of one of it’s departments!! Perhaps they should done similar with the pink bats and school halls as well…

    • The only thing that would have made a real difference there was a PR company. What Abbott says about batts and school halls isn’t close to the real story. School halls did not cost 3 times as much, the excess cost was closer to 7%. Schools didn’t complain as much as he says, there were just over 2% complaints. Batt problems with people getting injured and fires, lower than the industry average before the scheme.

      • Yep, doesn’t stop Tony “never let the truth stand in the way of a good story” Abbott from making stuff up though….

        • Even more disgusting is the MSM not calling him out on it. The only reporter I’ve heard challenge him on his claims was Kerry O’Brian. As usual Tony avoided answering and, I could be wrong, has never appeared on that or several other shows that had the nerve to not tow the party line.

          • The pink batt “debacle” wasn’t so much a debacle as it was more lacking in restrictions of what was acceptable.

            Tony “I’ll just say no or the opposite of what they are doing” Abbott just likes being the Australian version of the Tea Party. :\

  6. What is the purpose of the Government leasing PC equipment? Is there some tax benefit that works out better than maintaining a Department that can maintain/service the ‘fleet’ in-house?

    • @Nich – leasing avoids the exact issue they have now. To generalise: Leasing spreads the cost evenly over the product lifecycle, although you pay more overall. Purchasing has a high upfront cost, but often lower overall cost.

      To change from lease to purchase without having the required capital outlay *when due* (even though you have budgeted for the total cost) is downright incompetent.

  7. I don’t think leasing is a good idea because potentially cost more in the long term. Most organization I’ve work with will purchase the devices outright with some usual gold standard warranties like Dell Pro support

    Having work for both state and federal government on desktop rollouts. The account department normally doesnt understand IT does and when cost cutting is required then all these IT projects get cut, Accounts just see a large sum of money and nothing else

    This simple mindset means important projects get sidelined or canceled

    In QLD when newman came into office. An entire Windows 7 rollout was mothballed because of cost cutting despite spending 6 months in preplanning with weeks before a beta SOE release

  8. Yea not sure what you’re on about with leasing, Ren – it looks better on the accounts at first glance because it evens out the large spending peaks, but only to someone incapable of reading and understanding basic accounting. Leasing always costs more over the life of the equipment, usually a LOT more.

    Besides, if you want to even out capital expenditure spikes over the life of the equipment, fund it with a loan and make regular repayments – even with interest it will still be cheaper than leasing.

  9. I think you are being a bit hard on them and no I don’t work there. It sounds like they are still rolling out Windows 7 to all machines but over a longer period of time, eg two financial years instead of one. From a quick look at the transcript, it appears as if some of this was previously managed by the Dept of Finance before so Dept of Parliamentary Services didn’t have complete visibility over some of this stuff.

    To me it sounds like they found a lot of old hardware like scanners and printers for which there were no Windows 7 drivers and old applications that didn’t work under Windows 7 or required remediation. I think this kind of thing is to be expected when rolling out a new operating system in a large organisation and it is hard to know all of this up front.

    You have said in the past that you consider Centrelink’s IT dept to be well run. Maybe you should ask them how long they have been working on their Windows 7 rollout and how much money they have spent on it.

Comments are closed.