news The Queensland Government has reportedly “removed” its whole of government chief information officer Peter Grant from his position, just 18 months after the executive was appointed to the role for the second time.
Grant was appointed as whole of government CIO by the previous Bligh Labor Government in late November 2011, with the Premier at the time flagging plans to significantly expand the powers of the role as the state grappled with a series of expensive IT disasters, such as the Queensland Health payroll fiasco. Grant previously held the role from 2005 through 2008, after a lengthy career in the technology industry that had included a short stint as the CIO of Queensland Health, three years as a consultant and other periods as a vice president with analyst firm Gartner and time as the Director of IT at Queensland Transport.
However, he exited the role unexpectedly in December 2007, accepting a role as the state director for software giant Microsoft. That role lasted little over a year; following that Grant worked as a consultant for analyst firm Intelligent Business Research Services, as well as holding posts as a professor of Information Systems at the University of Queensland and the Queensland University of Technology.
This afternoon iTNews reported that Andrew Garner, Director-General of Queensland’s Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts, had informed staff that he would “remove” Grant of the role, effectively immediately. A spokesperson for Queensland IT Minister Ian Walker — a new appointment to the role himself — confirmed to Delimiter that Grant was shifting positions in a brief statement this afternoon, but could not immediately provide any further detail. Walker is expected to brief media on the shift early tomorrow.
Some in Queensland’s IT industry will be pleased with the result. Controversial industry personality Bruce Mills, who had several high-profile stoushes with the previous Labor Government over technology policy, severely criticised Grant’s appointment in 2011.
Calling for then-ICT minister Simon Finn to step down at the time, Mills dubbed the appointment of Grant a slap in the face to the industry, because of the level of his previous underperformance in the same role. “If the best that Mr Finn can produce for the ICT sector is recycling bureaucratic positions, then frankly given his record of presiding over whole-of-government debacles he should actually resign or the Premier should sack him,” he asserted at the time.
However, others, such as Queensland-based IT analyst firm Longhaus, saw the appointment at the time as presenting a chance for IT industry unity in dealing with the Queensland Government on a range of matters.
The news of Grant’s departure from the whole of government CIO role comes as the state has also failed to make progress on other areas of technology policy.
In late May 2012, the new Liberal-National Party State Government in Queensland announced it would conduct a six month whole of government audit into ICT systems used across the state public sector, in a bid to identify potential savings and efficiencies ahead of projected rationalisation of its ICT assets and processes. The audit, announced by then-Queensland IT Minister Ros Bates, who has since resigned her post, was to cost $5.2 million, use 32 public servants to complete and report in October last year.
The announcement of the audit appeared to represent the potential for a fresh start for the state in terms of ICT project and service delivery. As with other states such as Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia, Queensland has been battered over the past half-decade by a series of failures in fundamental ICT project and service delivery that has led the state government’s IT workers reeling. Not least of these was the payroll systems overhaul at Queensland Health; a project which is more than a billion dollars over its initial budget and which is still malfunctioning. The project is currently the subject of an official Commission of Inquiry.
In mid-October last year, Bates publicised some of the facts which the then-IT Minister said were uncovered in the ICT audit, including the claim that it would cost Queensland between $3.7 billion and $6 billion replace the “mess of mismatched, miscellaneous and duplicated [ICT] systems” which the previous Labor administration had left the state with.
However, since that date Bates and her successor, Walker, have declined to publicly release either the interim or full ICT audits which the Minister promised in May last year, leaving observers and Queensland’s ICT industry itself confused as to the current state of the State Government’s IT systems and processes, as well as its future plans to remediate the area.
However, the state appears to be making progress on other fronts. For example, Walker’s department is currently responding to recommendations outlined in the Commission of Audit report recently delivered to the Queensland Government by former Federal Treasurer Peter Costello. The audit recommends a wide tranche of changes to the way Queensland handles technology projects and services, such as embracing cloud computing and divesting the governmnet-owned CITEC shared services business.
I don’t think this move will surprise many within Queensland’s IT industry. It has been apparent for some time that the state’s whole of government chief information office has been ineffectual at combating the various fundamental issues of IT service and project delivery which the state is currently suffering, and that the LNP administration would need to pursue radical change if it is to succeed in addressing the problems outlined in many audit reports over the past several years.
Grant’s departure comes as similar whole of government roles in NSW and Victoria have similarly failed to meet expectations. I would expect to see — as we are in NSW and Victoria as well — more substantive change coming out of Queensland soon with respect to its technology operations.
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