A decade later, third time lucky, NSW LifeLink IT project finishes



news The NSW Government has revealed that it is finally close to completing its extremely troubled LifeLink IT project to replace the key administration platform used by the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, some 11 years after the project was first begun.

The LifeLink project started in 2002-03 to replace the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriage’s paper-based LifeData system. However, the project has been beset by problems over its life. A total of $3.5 million was written off during 2010-11, but the Department of Attorney-General and Justice successfully recovered $2.7 million through a judgment against the terminated original contractor, UXC.

Subsequently, a new contract was signed in 2010 with a new contractor (the identity of which has not been disclosed) to start the project from scratch.

The NSW Auditor-General revealed in a report published today and available online in PDF format that that second effort had also failed, with the un-named contractor informing the Department in 2012 that it would be unable to deliver the fixed-price contract within the agreed timeframes. As a result, the Department believed the project was likely to be terminated and wrote off $10.5 million in 2011-12.

However, after negotiations with the contractor, and the implementation of a new governance structure under the direct control of the department’s Chief Information Officer, the project is to now proceed to completion. On the advice of its consultant, the Department has reversed $6.1 million of the amount written off because the project has recommenced with the successful completion of the initial contract milestones.

“The current software delivery date is scheduled for 20 December 2013, with a go-live date of 22 April 2014,” the NSW Auditor-General’s report on the matter states. “In July 2013, the LifeLink business case was updated and sent to Treasury. The total project budget is now $17.3 million, an increase of $5.9 million.”

An independent health check was performed in June 2013. It found that there were major shortcomings in the way the project was previously conducted.

“The Department needs to strengthen its controls and governance over major information technology projects,” wrote the Auditor-General. “The Department advised that on completion of the LifeLink project an independent post implementation review will be conducted, including an analysis of LifeLink’s benefits realisation.” The department has appointed a director of a new project management office within its operations, which will help ensure similar problems are not seen on IT projects in future.

The problems with LifeLink are not the first issues to be seen with a major IT project overseen by the NSW Department of Attorney General and Justice. The department suffered similar problems with its JusticeLink project, which linked court data and systems.

However, the Auditor-General’s report published today also found at least one IT success story. NSW Corrective Service advised the auditor that its Remediation and Enhancement and Architecture Lifecycle (REAL) program, which started in 2009, was completed in 2013.

This program consisted of four streams addressing long-term deficiencies across Corrective Services’ frontline business applications and technology infrastructure. The program upgraded the department’s technology infrastructure and key database systems to improve prisoner information and management, financial operations, communications and record management.

“The original budget for the REAL program of $47.6 million over four years was later adjusted to $42.8 million following de-scoping of a planned legacy system upgrade in favour of migration to a new platform under the Justice Shared Corporate Services program. The final cost was $40.5 million. Corrective Services advised that the overall program was successfully delivered.” Corrective Services is, however, currently conducting an audit of how the project went.

Problems with IT projects in the NSW justice portfolio? How … completely expected. That particular section of the NSW Government has been a known haven of problematic IT projects for at least half a decade now. The word “JusticeLink” is enough to send shivers down any IT professional’s spine, and I’m not at all surprised that the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages is only just now managing to move off a paper-based system for its own administration. Perhaps by 2020 it’ll actually manage to link everything up to the Internet.

Image credit: Timo Balk, royalty free


  1. Unless I’m mistaken – that photo is of the Puffing Billy railway in Victoria? Not really relevant (topic or geography) to the story is it? :P

    • The Puffing Billy is an anachronism which takes forever to get where it’s going. I find it a perfectly apt visual metaphor to accompany this article.

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