Incis debacle slows activity

By Adam Gifford

By ADAM GIFFORD

IT activity in government has gone right off the boil, judging by the small number of IT projects being monitored by the State Services Commission.

Under rules brought in after problems with the police Incis system and other debacles, the SSC monitors major IT projects.

These include those likely to cost $15 million or more; those involving IT capital investment of $7 million or more in any one year; those likely to make a significant impact on more than one department or agency; or those whose failure or delay would expose the department or Government to significant risk.

A responsible minister can also request that the project be monitored.

The present list includes Archives New Zealand's GLADIS (Government locator, archival documentation and information system), a group of projects at the Education Ministry called the e-Admin programme, the Parliamentary Counsel's PAL (Parliamentary Access to Legislation), and two police projects, the LES (Law Enforcement System) replacement and the computing infrastructure replacement.

An SSC spokeswoman said the short list reflected the fact that many major projects were completed last year.

But Information Technology Association executive director Jim O'Neill said there was a problem which ITANZ was trying to address with its proposed Centre for Advanced Government Applications, under which industry would work closely with government to identify applications that could be developed here and sold to governments worldwide.

"The Government needs to accelerate projects to give the industry something to do," O'Neill said.

"With the level of government influence on the IT market in this country, it is almost a responsibility of the Government to ensure there is a reasonable flow of projects coming to market."

He said plenty of small upgrade projects were going on, but not enough to make an industry.

"There is still a residue in government from the Incis fall-out which has the effect of many government departments saying they will not do anything state-of-the-art or even vaguely risky," O'Neill said.

The $32 million police computer infrastructure replacement project, although large, would be considered business as usual in a department which had not had a $110 million IT project go sour.

"We are on the list because of our history, you can't avoid that," said infrastructure business unit national manager Rohan Mendis.

More than 3000 IBM PCs and 750 printers have already been replaced by contractors Unisys, and a further 1500 will be replaced in each of the next two financial years.

The police are also upgrading to a Windows 2000 server environment with Windows XP on the desktop.

In a separate project run by Ericsson, Cisco, Logical and Telecom, a new data and voice network has been built and smaller stations equipped with 2800 internet phones.

The other police project being monitored is LES, better known as the system replacing the Wanganui Computer.

The $17.3 million project involves moving a wide range of data and applications and ensuring they are compatible with systems in other departments like the Justice Ministry's Case Management System.

In light of Incis, a huge planning effort was put in to reduce risk.

Archives New Zealand chief executive Dianne Macaskill said GLADIS, which involves a $2 million software development by Unisys and a $5 million information back capture effort, was on the list because it was 18 months overdue.

"We are behind time because we really put a lot of effort into testing and making sure it was right," Macaskill said.

"It is on budget, though, and we have rolled it out to staff in the past couple of weeks."

GLADIS will allow the public to see on the internet what documents Archives holds, rather than having to come into an office and going through a paper-based cataloguing system.

The $8 million Parliamentary Access to Legislation project is not only delayed but has been in limbo for a year as the Parliamentary Counsel Office argues with Unisys about how it should be completed.

The Education Ministry e-Admin projects aim to create systems and tools which schools can use for electronic administration and reporting.

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