Bloodbath: Qld Govt sacks one quarter of IT staff



news The Queensland Government has cut its information technology workforce by about a quarter in just a year, the state’s Public Service Commission has revealed, in startling figures that come as the state is grappling with substantial problems with fundamental IT project and service delivery.

In June 2013, the state published its first comprehensive ICT Audit. That document reported that the total IT-related workforce within the Queensland State Government was around 5,670 total full-time equivalent roles. Most of those staff, according to the Audit, were engaged in the implementation and day to day operational support of applications and infrastructure. At that stage, contractors represented about nine percent of the total workforce, although the number of contractors had dropped by 42 percent since April 2012.

However, as first reported by iTNews (we recommend you click here for iTNews’ article), the state’s Public Service Commission recently published a document outlining the make-up of the state’s workforce. That document (available online in PDF format) highlighted the fact that only 4315 full-time equivalent IT roles existed within the Queensland Government as at the end of 2013, a reduction of about 24 percent over an 18 month period.

In a general sense the extremely wide-ranging cuts will not come as a surprise. The Queensland Government under the new LNP administration has made several very public statements regarding the need to cut large numbers of technology staff.

In July 2013, for example, it revealed plans to cut 430 IT staff from its chief technology office. In June 2013 one of the government’s main unions stated plans were afoot to axe some 2,000 IT staff, while in September 2012 the Government terminated the contracts of some 384 IT workers. Other cuts dated back to July 2012. However, as a sum percentage the number of staff which have been cut by the state is relatively unprecedented in the Australian public sector in terms of IT workers.

It seems likely that much of the cuts have come from operational areas, rather than areas where real differences in IT strategy could have a substantial impact on the Queensland Government’s IT operations.

The ICT audit found that ninety percent of the Queensland Government’s ICT systems were outdated and would require replacement within five years at a total cost of $7.4 billion, as Queensland continues to grapple with the catastrophic outcome of years of “chronic underfunding” into its dilapidated ICT infrastructure. And yet, the same audit also found that currently, only 2 percent of the state’s IT workforce were in roles that could “challenge the way government conducts its business”.

“The profile of the ICT workforce is currently not equipped to sufficiently promote or influence innovation,” the audit found. “Insufficient resourcing in the areas of architecture, business and ICT strategy and planning and business analysis will inhibit the speed at which significant change can be planned and implemented.”

Furthermore, the ICT Audit also flagged the need to employ a greater percentage of staff involved in IT security matters.

“Currently less than 5 percent of the reported ICT workforce specialise in the security and management of information,” it stated. “Understanding the nature of the Government’s information holdings will be important to successfully changing how business services can be
provisioned. There will need to be consistent and pragmatic approaches to developing and accessing the risk profile of government information holdings. This will enable appropriate information security controls to be applied, independent of specific technology security products and ICT solutions.”

“There is a responsibility at the whole-of-government level to set direction around ICT
provision and the subsequent reshaping of the ICT workforce,” it concluded. “Success with resizing and reshaping the ICT workforce rests with agencies and is dependent on the extent to which
each agency embraces innovation and alternative methods of ICT service provision. At present, ICT workforce resizing efforts are focused on ensuring the business continuity of in-house ICT services to ensure that there is no threat to business services.”

“Ongoing workforce planning by agencies is required to confirm the profile of the ICT
workforce in terms of size, skill, competency and utilisation of staff as well as define and
implement strategies to reshape the workforce.”

I don’t quite know what to make of the magnitude of cuts to IT staff by the Queensland Government detailed in this article. On the one hand, it’s apparent, as the ICT Audit noted, that many of these roles were in operational support — ‘keeping the lights on’ rather than moving the IT paradigm within the Queensland Government forward. It’s not surprising that a lot of these roles would be cut, and it’s clear that the Queensland Government had grown overweight in a variety of areas.

However, it’s also clear that the Queensland Government is struggling with fundamental IT project and service delivery at this point. The State is not going to be able to move its paradigm forward and modernise its IT infrastructure if it cuts too many IT staff. Is one quarter too much? Yes, yes I think it definitely is.

10 to 20 percent is a very large cut for any government in terms of its IT staff. When it gets above that (especially considering that many IT contractors were likely not included in these figures), things start to look ridiculous. 24 percent is just an incredible number. Imagine if one in every four staff was chopped from your IT workplace. Would things continue to function as before? No, not really. And in some cases, they may just fail completely.


  1. next month it will be announced they are outsourcing ICT in qld to some overseas company for may hundreds of millions of dollars because there is no one left to run the existing systems.

    It’s just the LNP way in this state

  2. This is exactly the way it should be. By getting rid of internal IT and ‘non-core’ business the government can engage the private sector.

    Keeping work inside government merely employs lots of public servants. By using private firms, governed by strong SLA’s and contracts, has a multiplier effect on the economy. Private sector firms employ not only consultants, but admin and support staff, but real estate and other assets that adds to the overall economy.

    I work for a large multinational – we employ more than 6000 Australians.

    • How many non Australian staff do you employ to do work previously done by Australians?

      • We employ close to 100,000 people globally. You’ll find in most cases the only people who ‘lose’ their jobs are those in ‘commodity’ roles that can easily be done off or near shore for around 1/10th of the equivalent Australian (onshore) resource.

        Taking ownership of your career, investing in your professional development rather than waiting for your employer to train you and delivering innovation and value to your employer are by far the best way to avoid becoming a ‘commodity’.

        No one likes displacing anyone; the fact is though it is possible to get exactly the same quality of work by either applying new technology or making use of off-shore resources which in some cases are 1/10th cost.

    • SO how did those strong SLAs and contracts work out for QLD///oh yes IBM fleeced them for $1.2billion.

      • If you read the full report, IBM was pinged for the up-front misconduct with respect to the tendering process.

        The key issue with the health payroll is common to many system implementations – failing to address the overly complicated, legacy payroll processes that had grown over the 10+ years of the Lattice system. The reason given is that changing any of the awards (there were thousands of them) would be seen as an opportunity for the heavily unionised workforce to engage in a ‘land grab’ for more benefits.

        Having been involved in the payroll project early on I was astounded at how many public service project managers and high level administration staff had been seconded to CorpTech, QHEST and other agencies (or groups).

        The government would have been better to actually set a contract with IBM that was milestone\outcomes related rather than interfering with the day to day management of the project.

        The idea of a strong SLA\contract is that you pay the vendor for results, not the time they have spent on building something.

        QLD Health was immature and inexperienced in the commercial sense and allowed IBM to not only subvert the procurement process, but failed to hold them to account.

        There is the added dimension of political interference with the desire for senior health executives and the labor minister to show ‘quick wins’ – this resulted in short cutting of parallel testing.

        For some reason people are irrational about IT projects. You wouldn’t pay a builder who is building your house if he built you something not to specification or standard. The flip side is that you wouldn’t engage a builder then tell him how to build your house.

        Business owns and is accountable for the vision, the builder owns and is accountable for the execution.

  3. I think you may be underestimating the amount of surplus capacity within in-house government IT departments and the number of non-essential systems or applications. Even assuming that government IT resources are less productive than corporate IT resources, a cut of 25% may not actually be catastrophic but may instead improve some teams and areas if done with care and foresight. The main thing from my perspective and experience in the public sector is whether it is possible for the Queensland government to downsize so quickly without losing the baby with the bath-water.

  4. I have a friend that was working with the QLD Police to develop some software/system. He was sacked not long after Campbell got in, and hired back by the company that got the contract to finish and maintain the software/system, but they hired him back at 3 times the wage the QLD Gov were paying him.

    Same guy, doing the same work, but getting three times as much money because it’s now being done by “private enterprise”. Private enterprise “efficiencies”….gotta love em…

  5. Sacking the operational staff ( who have the most knowledge of the ICT services) leaves the fate of the future government services to the ‘leadership’ of upper management that have caused this scenario.

    Dysfunctional executives still prevail and cling on very tightly to their ‘positions’. Poor leadership, incompetence, lack of decision making capability and self-preservation is still not ‘Audited’ by the Government to weed out these draconian leaders and establish contemporary-thinking leaders.

    Every audit and review process is unfortunately handled by the ICT executives to determine the eventual restructure of an agency.

    Moving towards a service-based model, the agreements are left to these remaining ‘leaders’ to negotiate and provide good ICT services for QLD.

    Good luck !

    • Totally agree on the dysfunctional executives. The cuts have to go much broader and remove those inexperienced managers who have worked no-where else but government.

      I’ve been in IT for more than 25 years and have worked at all levels of government. I can honestly say I have never met a single government ‘Executive’ that would prevail in the private sector.

  6. Insider observers of the Federal Gov sphere describe the longer term ramifications of the Howard era cuts of the late 1990s were seen in the large IT failures of the 2000s for all those reasons. QLD gov does not have the knowledge of its own services and businesses to be able to negotiate such contracts – the best practice data gathering and resulting knowledge now resides with the big 4 consulting houses. Like the toll roads and Airport link they will decide the price and will give the go ahead for large outsourcing deals because they will secure significant fees along the way. Get use to it up there in Qld – the privatisation of the profits and the socialisation of the losses.

    We all know that’s what’s taking place – we just haven’t learnt from other countries etc..but we are about to have this happen big time in Australia.

    • The Howard Government actually increased the size of the Public Service overall, much more that the previous (Hawke) labor government. Having worked for a number of years in Canberra the biggest problem is not in the use of the private sector but a lack of commercial understanding and inexperience on the part of Public Service Executive and Middle Management.

      The Public Service fails to properly engage with the private sector – they are unable to hold the contractors and companies they hire to account as they lack the understanding necessary to engage in an outcomes based fashion, instead preferring to use a T&M or Fixed Time basis.

      It is the private sector that will save the Australian IT sector, not increasing the size of the public service.

      • That the same private enterprise that tripled the middle/upper management of our privatised power companies and increased power bills by 70% in a handful of years?

  7. I came from a heavy manufacturing environment where I was the analyst, architect, developer, dba, support for desktop, web and integrated packages, after keeping that contract going for eight years (leaving on my own accord), I relocated to Brisbane and met about 30 government IT professionals, I understand why the cuts are so heavy, they were all incompetent and arrogant, they have been living in a bubble where they all scratch each others backs. Not surprising have you seen the process to apply for a government position, the selection criteria what a joke, they are after people who are full of wind, can talk the talk and then rely on each other or even more ludicrous get in real professionals to do the real work.
    Good on you Campbell Newman, you still have a long way to go, I would say 80% of government is incompetent including the politicians themselves(as if they would be left out).

  8. Sure, it looks like Mr Newman is doing the right thing as the numbers have gone down and really, that’s what all politicians are worried about (perception). I think the real question is, though, “have the right jobs been cut?” I suspect the answer to the question is “no” as middle management have gone into self protection mode to make sure they stay around while the workers who actually do something productive get the flick. Someone was telling me the other day where this exact thing had happened in the QLD government and I suspect it wasn’t just an isolated incident.

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