IBM and Queensland squabble in court over Health payroll disaster


blog Remember that massive, billion-dollar payroll IT systems disaster at Queensland Health? Remember how the prime contractor IBM disavowed all responsibility for it? And how the Queensland Government subsequently sued the company and banned IBM from any further work with its departments and agencies? Yeah, good times. Or not, if you work in IT in Queensland Health, or in sales for IBM in Queensland. Well, the court case between the state and Big Blue has kicked off again. AAP, through 9 News, has the latest (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“Technology giant IBM can’t be sued over Queensland’s health payroll disaster under a 2010 agreement with the state, the company’s lawyers say.”

The truth of the situation with respect to the Queensland Health payroll disaster has already been well-established through a series of inquiries over the past five years. Firstly, I am not a lawyer by any means, but IBM appears to be correct in that its agreement with Queensland precluded it from being sued.

I don’t personally hold IBM completely blameless for the failure of the project — in my opinion all parties involved share some responsibility here. However, Queensland’s own Commission of Inquiry into the project failure found the primary issues with the project related to the Government’s own administration of it. Former Supreme Court Justice Richard Chesterman, who oversaw the inquiry, wrote at the time:

“I have identified two principal causes of the inadequacies which led to the increase in contract price, the serious shortcomings in contract and project management, and in the State’s decision to settle with IBM. Those causes were: unwarranted urgency and a lack of diligence on the part of State officials. That lack of diligence manifested itself in the poor decisions which those officials made in scoping the Interim Solution; in their governance of the Project; and in failing to hold IBM to account to deliver a functional payroll system.”

I doubt that we’re going to get a substantial new amount of information out of either IBM or the Queensland Government about the project during this court case — this case has been gone over in exhaustive detail. All that’s left from here is likely to be continual legal fireworks.

Image credit: Patrick, Creative Commons


  1. This looks like pretty common commercial litigation: arguing contract terms in court, to get a ‘final’ determination – for next time.

  2. While the management and oversight of the project by under-resourced, under-qualified public servants was never going to help, the real issue is the Industrial Relations nightmare that is QLD Health.

    Under current agreements and awards, there are more than 20,000 unique pay-scales that apply. That’s not a misprint.

    Step 1: Fix the ludicrously over complicated legislative issues. Chaos is impossible to program at this point in time.

    Step 2: Avoid the “Big Bang” problem. Don’t try to roll out a single system for more than 20% of all public servants (across whole of government) in a single go. Testing with 1 department (less than 0.01%) is not adequate.

    Step 3: Don’t sign away rights to sue or seek rectification for temporary political gain, for a project that directly affects the livelihood of every employee of the single largest employer in the state!

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