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Friday, 13 August 2010 13:56

Gershon savings sold short: Experts

By

The Federal Government has plundered the mediocre savings of the Gershon Review of IT spending before the reviews recommendations had even been properly implemented, an international governance expert has charged.


Infonomics principal Mark Toomey slammed the Gillard Government decision to raid the $450 million Gershon fund - which was meant to have been quarantined for use in innovative Government IT projects - saying the Gershon reform process had not yet been fully realised.

Toomey said the Government's failure to implement Gershon recommendations 1 and 2 - which sought to improve pan-government governance and agency governance - meant that only a small portion of the potential savings were realised.

"They have saved money though the Gershon process, but I suspect that they could have saved a great deal more money if they had implemented the Gershon recommendations properly," Toomey said.

"It is only when Gershon recommendations one and two are cross implemented that we will get the sort of innovative propositions to use IT to improve the machinery of government and the performance of government, which is what the Gershon savings fund was meant to cover," he said.

Conducted by UK public sector efficiency expert Sir Peter Gershon and published in late 2008, the Gershon Review set aside 50 per cent of all savings for use by government IT departments on projects that would drive further efficiencies.

"The Gershon review clearly said that the Australian Government needed a major change of culture at the top, to drive business change through the machinery of government, so that IT use could be optimised, not by slashing and burning the IT, but by rationalising, simplifying and consolidating the business systems so that they would make more efficient and effective use of IT," Toomey said.

"Had the government, through AGIMO diligently pursued the development of a new top level culture in government, especially in the top ranks of the bureaucracy, the central IT agency could have become the central font of wisdom that helps government leaders achieve higher performance at lower cost," he said.


"But because the government and AGIMO focused on collecting the low hanging fruit that are now collected in the Gershon Savings - much of which was legitimate but could have been harvested in a much more constructive fashion over a slightly longer timeframe - AGIMO has gained the profile of an obstacle to progress rather than as an enabler."

The great pity, Toomey says, is that Australia is one of the world leaders in IT governance issues and played an important role in the development of international management standards on the issues - as was recognised by Sir Peter.

According to Toomey, the International Standard for Corporate Governance of IT - ISO 38500, which was developed in Australia by independent Australian thinkers working under the auspices of Standards Australia, provides powerful guidance for assembling and delivering a nation-building strategy for the twenty-first century and beyond.


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