Tuesday, 15 April 2008 16:53

UK expert hired to rein in Australian Govt IT spend

The Australian Federal Government’s cost-cutting ‘razor gang’, led by Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, wants to slash Government ICT costs. UK expert Sir Peter Gershon has been brought in to do the job, and even he’s pitching in, asking that his remuneration be paid instead to charity.

Australia’s Federal Finance and Deregulation Minister, Lindsay Tanner, is bringing in a UK expert “to lead an independent review of the Australian Government's management of information and communication technology (ICT).”

It’s an attempt to either seriously rein in Government ICT spending, or achieve much more value for the money currently spent, depending on the review’s findings.

In to head the project is Sir Peter Gershon, a former Chief Executive of the UK Treasury’s Office of Government Commerce, who has undertaken several major strategic reviews for the UK Government on procurement including ICT and public sector efficiency.

As a result of the reviews conducted by Gershon, the UK Government is estimated to have achieved an £23 billion in budget savings.

Amongst Gershon’s many illustrious achievements in the business and technology sectors, Gershon is currently Chairman of the General Healthcare Group, Premier Farnell plc, Symbian Ltd. and Vertex Data Science Limited.

The Federal Finance Department says that the ICT review “aims to identify ways in which the Australian Government can strengthen the whole-of-government management of ICT and maximise the benefits from ICT to drive greater efficiency and better services.”

In addition, the review will also “examine the way in which agencies manage ICT investments, including maintenance, intra-agency links, development and staffing.”

Continued on page 2.

Minister Tanner said: “The Australian Government has approximately $10 billion in ICT assets and spends around $6 billion per annum on ICT encompassing procurement, maintenance, development and staff costs. Under the Howard Government this spending was completely uncoordinated leading to serious inefficiencies and cost blowouts.”

Tanner continued that: "There are clear opportunities for efficiency gains in information and communication technology. But we also want to use this review to ensure Australians can access convenient and high quality government services.”

In the past, Sir Peter Gershon, a former Chief Executive of the UK Treasury’s Office of Government Commerce, has undertaken several major strategic reviews for the UK Government on procurement including ICT and public sector efficiency, producing an estimated £23 billion in budget savings.

Mr Tanner said: "Sir Peter’s track record at the most senior levels of both industry and government in the UK speaks for itself. His expertise as an industry leader, strategist and highly effective reviewer of public administration makes him a compelling candidate to review the way in which the Australian Government manages its use of ICT."

Tanner’s press release advises that “Gershon will be supported by the Department of Finance and Deregulation and will report to the Minister by September 2008 on options to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of ICT within Government. The review is part of the broader ongoing reform agenda to improve the efficiency of government spending and deliver better value for money.”

Gershon’s career has spanned both the private and public sectors since he graduated in Mathematics at Cambridge University in 1969. After starting in the computer industry (1969-1986) he worked in the telecommunications industry (1987-1994). Following that Sir Peter held positions as the Managing Director, Marconi Electronic Systems and became the main board director in GEC plc with responsibility for its £3.5 billion international aerospace and defence business.

Following the sale of GEC’s defence business to BAE SYSTEMS in late 1999 he joined the Civil Service in April 2000 as the first Chief Executive of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) which had been created following a review Sir Peter had undertaken for the Government in 1999. OGC’s remit is to lead a major programme to reform the way UK Central Civil Government handles over £13 billion p.a. of public procurement. £1.6 billion of value for money gains were achieved by March 2003 against an initial target of £1 billion.

Continued on page 3.

In August 2003, the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer invited Sir Peter to lead a major review of efficiency across the whole UK Public Sector (excluding Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) to identify significant resources which could be reallocated in the 2004 Spending Review to front line services over the period 05/06 – 07/08.

By July 2004 the review had secured agreement to, and developed initial plans for the delivery of, a programme leading to over £20 billion of savings in 07/08 (the actual savings to end December 07 have exceeded £23 billion).

After more than four years of public service Gershon returned to the private sector in autumn 2004 and is now Chairman of the General Healthcare Group, Premier Farnell plc, Symbian Ltd. and Vertex Data Science Limited. His other current appointments include non-executive directorship of HM Treasury (until 31 March 2008), membership of the council of Imperial College and membership of the UK Defence Academy’s advisory board. In 2005/6 he headed an independent review of Ministerial and Royal Air Travel at the request of the Prime Minister and The Palace.

He was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2000 for services to industry and knighted in 2004 for his work on public procurement.

Gershon is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institution of Electrical Engineers, the British Computer Society, the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply and the Royal Aeronautical Society; a Companion of the Chartered Management Institute. He has an Honorary Doctorate in Technology from Kingston University and is an Honorary Fellow of Cardiff University.

Aged 61, Gershon is married with three grown up children, and enjoys skiing, swimming, reading, travel and the theatre.

Gershon has asked that the Australian Government make a donation to a charity in lieu of any remuneration.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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