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Prison buggered indefinitely

johnboy 18 February 2009 48

The Liberals’ Jeremy Hanson brings word out of committee hearings that the electronic security system at the prison still doesn’t work and no-one knows when it will.

This is the prison that was officially opened before the election as a symbol of the Government’s competence.

So when will they bite the bullet and start shipping long term inmates all the way to distant Goulburn again?


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48 Responses to Prison buggered indefinitely
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Jim Jones Jim Jones 10:40 am 20 Feb 09

Totally agree that the firm has a moral obligation to fill their obligations.

What kills me (and why I was musing on the ‘cheapest tender’ theory) is the fact that this sort of thing is so commonplace. In the public circus it seems to be the norm (with anything tech related anyway): outsourced projects always run over schedule and over budget.

I read an online book about some of this stuff a while back (http://epress.anu.edu.au/managing_citation.html) which suggested that, a great deal of the time this problem was due to poor management of consultants (rather than the consulting firm being dodgy).

The argument about good and bad people certainly comes into it. But a good person can only do good programming under the right circumstances: they need clear direction on the task/s, the right time, equipment and (sometimes) support staff.

As for “If they take a loss on a project they will learn to negotiate a better price in future”. I dunno. Does the firm actually take the loss? Most of the cases I’ve heard of involve renegotiations of contract, or the organisation doing the contracting actually stumping up. I suppose it depends.

But yeah, obviously a lot more complex than my earlier musings.

Granny Granny 2:15 am 20 Feb 09

I don’t buy that whole “cheapest tender” line.

My partner’s time is billed at two to three times what he is paid, and I’m sure that’s not uncommon. The programmer tends to see relatively little of it.

Good people, bad people. The cost is not that much different. Often the bad people are more expensive.

The firm has a moral obligation to fulfil their contractual obligations, in my opinion … no matter what it takes.

If they take a loss on a project they will learn to negotiate a better price in future.

Thumper Thumper 8:25 pm 19 Feb 09

Actually, you can polish a turd.

But it’s still a turd.

johnboy johnboy 7:40 pm 19 Feb 09

You can’t polish a turd.

But you can roll it in glitter.

(apologies if I use that again soon in a story)

vg vg 7:37 pm 19 Feb 09

Don’t forget people, you (or at least a lot of people) voted for this government of liars. There’s no way on God’s green earth the prison was going to be finished anywhere near the time Sad Simon proposed pre-election.

If it looks like a piece of sh*t, smells like a piece of sh*t…………………….

miz miz 7:01 pm 19 Feb 09

Poptop, yes. Even funnier is the fact that Minister H is giving a talk on the ‘human rights compliant prison’ at a conference I am going to in March. I imagine it will still be human rights compliant then, what with no prisoners and all.

monomania monomania 6:22 pm 19 Feb 09

Didn’t Bovis Lendlease suffer large losses because they couldn’t built Wembly Stadium on time. In this case it’s the ACT community that will bear the loss

tylersmayhem tylersmayhem 1:25 pm 19 Feb 09

Well put Peter!

peterh peterh 1:22 pm 19 Feb 09

Jim Jones said :

Isn’t it an almost inherent problem with the tender process though?

The company to provide the cheapest tender offer invariably wins the contract, but the offer is low because it’s unrealistically developed. So the tender goes to the company who will almost necessarily go over budget, over time and do a bad job – all the while frantically trying to patch things up in a short period with low-paid, underqualified staff so that, in the end, the job needs to be redone properly anyway.

Obviously this is a simplification, but there is a kernal of truth, no?

maybe if the government stuck to the concept of “value”, being the total solution, including price, innovation and implementation time all acting as factors within the value concept, not just the cheapest, these tender wins would have better long term wins for all concerned. Whilst they stick to the cheapest, there will always be room for major errors. Price shouldn’t have been the deciding factor for the prison tender.

I would have thought that security, safety, human rights, ease of use and on time completion would have been better factors to consider.

The government has got what it asked for. the “cheapest” initial solution, but not necessarily the best. Once the prison is finished, what will be the overall cost? there were probably responses that were far more expensive than the winning tender response, but I bet that they look pretty cheap now, in comparison.

tylersmayhem tylersmayhem 11:55 am 19 Feb 09

Thank you Jim Jones. Spot on man! I see it time and time again in the Public industry. Beat contractors down on price in the tendering process, which means they need to take shortcuts, hire cheaper people etc etc.

When working abroad I worked on several high profile projects. When I started, I could not believe the amount some of the contractors made per day. But I tell you what, man could they deliver awesome solutions, well within agreed time lines.

Pay peanuts, you usually get monkeys. want an awesome solution, invest in it.

Reprobate Reprobate 11:36 am 19 Feb 09

Being the countrys’ first Human Rights Prison, I’m surprised they are even fitting a security system – surely this impinges on the poor crims’ basic right to freedom of movement? Or perhaps it’s to keep out riff raff like ratepayers who might want to see where their money has gone…

FFS, pull down the barbed wire and set it up as low cost housing for the poor and homeless. Just shoot anyone convicted of a crime – god knows with our magistrates that won’t need many bullets in any given year…

Granny Granny 11:13 am 19 Feb 09

Well, Jim Jones, I’ve just heard of too many stupid government contracts that basically just pay contractors by hours worked rather than result.

And my partner has had to untangle too much bad code. Invariably once you strip all the crap and spaghetti out the thing will go.

But you often need someone with the patience to untangle Christmas tree lights and string and stuff, and a good grasp of the simplicity of what is needed and the basics of computing.

Seriously, it’s usually either that the programmer virtually got his qual from a Corn Flakes packet or the design is so poor that the ‘left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing’ and so the programmers make independent decisions and assumptions resulting in the bits not fitting together properly and the whole not working. Then more and more ludicrous lengths have to be gone to to ‘jury rig’ it.

Jim Jones Jim Jones 10:59 am 19 Feb 09

Isn’t it an almost inherent problem with the tender process though?

The company to provide the cheapest tender offer invariably wins the contract, but the offer is low because it’s unrealistically developed. So the tender goes to the company who will almost necessarily go over budget, over time and do a bad job – all the while frantically trying to patch things up in a short period with low-paid, underqualified staff so that, in the end, the job needs to be redone properly anyway.

Obviously this is a simplification, but there is a kernal of truth, no?

Granny Granny 10:54 am 19 Feb 09

I just get so ticked off at these contractors, especially when they’re wasting public money. Hire decent people, you morons, deliver a decent product, and do what you’re damn well paid for!!

There’s no mystique about software. It’s no harder than building a bridge or a road. People can either code decently or they can’t. If they can’t, then get somebody who can.

I think contractors use the general shoddy performance of the industry as a cop-out, and I dearly hope that the government holds Chubb to their side of the bargain.

They should probably send in someone ruthless at this point, like Darth Vader.

Skidbladnir Skidbladnir 10:04 am 19 Feb 09

I have no problems with a headline of “Prison finally operational after eight years, at no net cost to taxpayer”.

Getting a free prison paid for by Chubb would make for a reasonable return on a significant amount of public faith.

jakez jakez 9:37 am 19 Feb 09

This is getting so ridiculous that I am too annoyed to even make some analogy between this Government failure and the virtues of libertarianism.

54-11 54-11 9:16 am 19 Feb 09

I read the article in the Canberra Crimes this morning – still no word on how much this becale is costing the taxpayer, and what action is being taken to recover these costs. This, guys, is an incredibly expensive snafu.

poptop poptop 9:02 am 19 Feb 09

Miz, is it really truly true about the glass art?? I lolled!

tylersmayhem tylersmayhem 8:49 am 19 Feb 09

I have to say that I am actually really surprised this is taking so bloody long! I would have thought that whoever the contractor is that is responsible for the installation of the security systems would have done this before. While it’s not an “out of the box” solution, I would have thought it would have been the same as all the others they had done, with a bit of customising here and there.

Regardless, I hope they’re paying some pretty stiff penalties, which will be widely announced to keep taxpayers like me doing something silly to end up in there in the future ;P

deezagood deezagood 6:04 am 19 Feb 09

caf said :

It seems a bit rough to hold the minister responsible for the standard IT contractor inability to complete software to spec on time. Look on the bright side – the fact that it’s still being worked on at least means we didn’t accept a crap non-working system, which happens all too often. All we can really ask is that due diligence be done, and penalties be put in the contract for non-performance. It doesn’t sound like anyone in the bureaucracy has stuffed up, to me.

Err.. there are penalties for non-performance, right?

(On the other hand, holding an “opening” before it was actually ready was a completely egregious election stunt).

I don’t think the Minister can be held responsible for the stuff-ups either – large scale construction projects invariably end up facing delays for a range of reasons. I do, however, blame the Minister for pretending to officially ‘open’ the prison just before the election (to much media attention ‘look how well we manage large scale projects’), when the prison was clearly not ready to be opened! Why does the Canberra public accept this level of deceipt and bare-faced lying from their Chief minister?

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