When should the public learn of the $12 million Council software blowout
There is much that the Council chooses not to tell the public, and the main area that they keep under their hats is the finances The general response to any question you ask about finances is that they are "Operational Matters" and as such are usually then labeled "Commercial in Confidence" because the information probably concerns other parties such as consultants and contractors. For those of us who enjoy nothing better than to pour over Council's financial records it is often frustrating when you discover that Council, quite cleverly and intentionally, masks what is happening in the detail of day to day operations by divulging as least as possible in the detail of its general ledger. Those who are interested in such matters of finances would therefore be interested in the incredible blowout in costs already spent in Eurobodalla Council on the TechnologyOne Software implementation. Initially Council set aside approximately $3 million for the new solution. At the time it was determined, by the appointed Senior Manager Corporate Projects, to be a $6 million project, with all cost included. The TechnologyOne Software installation, under the direction of the Project Manager was to see the implementation of a new Corporate Business System based on TechnologyOne and covering Finance, HR, Payroll, Assets, GIS, Property and Rating, Customer Service and Records Management. It is understood that this now looks to exceeded $15 million of council funds and appears to be well hidden from the community, the councillors and the audit committee by way of the fact that over an hours search of Council's website revealed very little of the cost (or any) specific details around this project. In June 2016 the councillors heard that Council was seeking to replace its existing, in-house software system with a new ‘all in one’ Corporate Business System solution. Staff advised at the time "Council’s Fit for the Future Improvement Proposal (June 2015) identified that an integrated and improved information technology system will provide enhanced quality of information for strategic decision making and planning, reduce manual processing time and create further organisation efficiencies. The current system no longer adequately or efficiently addresses the needs of the community and the organisation. In October 2015 a Request for Tender (RFT) 2016/FBD079 ‘Corporate Business System Implementation, Support and Value Added Service Provider’ was issued to the marketplace seeking responses from vendors who could provide a single platform solution to improve functionality and business processes at Council. In June 2016 Council endorsed the selection of the preferred tenderer and provide delegated authority to the General Manager to commit to a contract value for the purchase of software licenses, implementation services and first year Maintenance and Support. The TechnologyOne project was expected to be delivered over a two year period which has now been four years with approximately two years still to go. With such a blowout The Beagle shares justifiable concerns with the ratepayers that the project might be either failing due to poor implementation, software shortfalls or mismanagement. With such an unreported blowout comes additional concerns of an intentional cover-up or even possible maladministration by Council. With little interest being shown by the councillors to concerns raised by The Beagle and with no sign of any genuine open and transparent concern being shown by the Council's Audit and Risk Committee there is little doubt that the NSW ombudsmen and a forensic auditor should be called in to look at the situation. Especially in light of the recent failures of other local council's in the State due to secrecy around the true financial position and performance of those councils. The onus of the success of the TechnologyOne integration project sits with the General Manager by way of Councillor delegated authority. With the project having run for several years already The Beagle is aware that successive management have selectively not listened to staff when being advised of concerns. There have long been warning signs that Council may well have lost control of the project that is consistently failing its intended brief. As is usual in situations like this the first port of call is for a General Manager to initiate a restructure within the organisation. Watch this space. This is an old ploy to ensure that oranges can not be compared to oranges and that the sins of the past are swept aside with an overarching "moving forward" statement that applies no blame to anyone in particular. Unfortunately the person most responsible for the poor performance ends up being promoted while a bunny is found to take the heat that usually ends up in a undeserving demotion of sorts so that a "favoured child" might climb the ladder. But what would The Beagle know - I only worked at Council for twenty one years, mostly in IT. In the REPORT TO ORDINARY MEETING OF EUROBODALLA SHIRE COUNCIL HELD ON TUESDAY 24 MARCH 2020 the Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee advised that during the past year, the ARIC had reviewed and/or monitored a number of regular (standard agenda items) and one off issues such as: Corporate Business System implementation: NOTE that it says "The Project Manager provides regular updates to the ARIC detailing risks and the mitigation of those risks, and the project performance against cost."
But what costs? What do we know of the costs of the software and implementation by consultants and staff and whether it represents value for money; and what certainty and evidence is there that the system will: "ultimately provide wider access to council services for the community and improve business processes and effectiveness for staff enabling continual improvement and service excellence." And how long is "ultimately"? Below is all that can be found on Council's website. REPORT TO ORDINARY MEETING OF EUROBODALLA SHIRE COUNCIL HELD ON TUESDAY 28 JUNE 2016
Below is the way that Council hides the detail of its day to day: The devil is, as they say, in the detail - and as you can see there is very little detail of how Council spent its $115 million budget - and more importantly comes the realisation that TechnologyOne and its implementation that covers Finance, HR, Payroll, Assets, GIS, Property and Rating, Customer Service and Records Management, is spread across these very general line items.
At the end of the day all it would require is a councillor to ask a Question on Notice "Can Council staff advise of the costs to date of this project, provide a current status, identify current problems and advise how long the implementation project will take and how much more money and what further resources are required". But where would you find such a councillor who might dare to ask this hard question is the hardest question of all.