An audit report has slammed the ACT Government’s handling of information and communication technologies (ICT) planning, calling it ineffective and inconsistent, with little sign of how policies are to be implemented from a practical point of view and leaving critical systems vulnerable.
Auditor-General, Michael Harris, has handed the report on ICT Strategic Planning to the Speaker for tabling in the Legislative Assembly.
He says the key ACT Government Digital Strategy 2016-2019 (the Digital Strategy) provides a high-level vision statement for ICT and seeks to bring cohesion to directorates’ ICT strategic planning ‘through a common purpose, language and perspective’, but there is little further information on the practical implications of this vision and how it is to achieve its purpose.
The audit found that a series of initiatives flagged in the Digital Strategy to promote whole-of-government ICT have not been effective, including cross-directorate Digital Strategy Workshops and the completion of self-assessment scorecards by directorates against the strategic principles identified in the Digital Strategy.
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Mr Harris says there is ‘considerable variability’ and inconsistency’ in directorates’ ICT strategic planning processes, which impair ICT’s ability to support directorates’ and agencies’ goals and objectives.
The audit found that the absence of a consistent, identifiable ICT strategic planning framework, with clear roles and responsibilities, timeframes and deliverables, made it difficult for directorates to consistently and effectively plan for ICT.
An Application Portfolio Management tool, that sought to comprehensively identify and document the ‘current state’ of ICT across directorates and inform future whole-of-government planning and procurement decisions lacked functionality and was poorly implemented.
The audit says the Digital Strategy does not elaborate on how it links with, or supports, the Government’s strategic priorities, the ICT capabilities required to meet its business needs, the ‘current state’ of ICT capabilities; and how, and by when, gaps between current and required ICT capabilities are to be closed.
A 2018 analysis of critical Government systems across the directorates found 20 per cent were not fit for purpose, with immediate investment required, while a further 20 per cent were identified as adequate but with investment required soon.
This was the catalyst for ACT Government directorates to identify and document the ‘current state’ of ACT Government ICT systems.
“The exercise was acknowledged as ‘the first step in a much larger body of work that will need to extend to Business Critical systems and beyond’. This demonstrates that existing ICT strategic planning processes, including whole-of-government ICT strategic planning initiatives, have not been effective to date,” the audit says.
The audit found that ‘roadmaps’ were either not developed or did not lead anywhere.
It recommended that the Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate should develop and implement an ICT strategic planning framework for directorates, including a detailed program of work to bring capability up to scratch.