news The NSW State Government has announced it will conduct an audit of the IT and marketing budget of utility Sydney Water, in the wake of revelations the company spent some $7.1 million on the development of a new website, which went live in March this year.
According to iTNews, late last month then-Finance Minister Greg Pearce criticised the utility, with Pearce saying at the time that it had spent some 4.5 percent of its IT budget on the website redevelopment effort. The website cost some $7.1 million and took three years to develop.
Pearce has since lost his position as Finance Minister, for failing to disclose a conflict of interest situation. However, it appears that the State Government is still interested in the issue. Pearce’s replacement, Minister for Ageing and Disability Services, who took over Pearce’s role, issued a statement today noting that an independent audit would be undertaken into Sydney Water’s market and IT programs, in an effort to ensure customer dollars were being spent wisely.
“The NSW Government is determined to place downward pressure on the cost of living and water bills are an important part of that commitment,” Constance said. “The Department of Finance and Services has been tasked with carrying out an audit and will provide a report to me on the current status of Sydney Water’s marketing and IT expenditures, and recommend if there are any opportunities to deliver savings.
“As a government we must live within our means and I am determined to drive efficiencies that deliver better value for Sydney Water customers.”
Constance said he acknowledged that Sydney Water is an essential service provider and while it is important to build the organisation’s reputation and educate the community, it is vital that all expenditure was prudent.
“Sydney Water provides water and wastewater services to 4.6 million people through a network of 45,000 kilometres of pipes, 251 reservoirs and 164 pumping stations,” Constance said. “We are working hard to ensure that Sydney Water continues to deliver quality services to customers in Sydney, the Illawarra and the Blue Mountains while also providing better customer value.”
Constance said Sydney Water’s $56.57 million capital budget for information technology projects this financial year would also be independently reviewed.
“Sydney Water approved a new IT strategy in May this year with a clear focus on driving efficiencies in this area, and this audit will ensure the organisation is on track to meet that commitment,” Constance said. “We have delivered great results for the community with the IPART decision to limit increases to Sydney Water’s prices by less than the rate of inflation over their four year price path.”
“However, I know that families are still doing it tough with the cost of living. This audit will give Sydney Water customers peace of mind that their money is being spent wisely, with a clear focus on placing downward pressure on prices.”
The head of Sydney Water’s IT operations is currently Stephen Wilson, a high-flying chief information officer who has also led the IT operations of Qantas and the NSW Department of Education & Training. Wilson joined Sydney Water in mid-2012.
Sydney Water has at times had a troubled relationship with technology. An article published by ZDNet in November 2008, for example, chronicles the journey which then-Sydney Water CIO Tim Catley took the organisation on from 2005. At that stage, the utility was still reeling from a notorious failed billing systems implementation in 2001, and Catley had to do much to change a perception within Sydney Water that its IT department was not capable of delivering on its promises.