Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD this afternoon introduced new controls for acquiring IT systems and running ICT projects following last week’s embarrassing revelations of overspending on major IT projects. The regulations pave the way for best practice standards in managing IT projects and cover the level of engagement of IT consultancies with government bodies.
Last week’s €150m Personnel, Payroll and Relative System debacle as well as the revelation on the Financial Information Systems Project led to a raft of criticism in the Dáil as well as an outcry over the management of public finances.
Ahern said a new system for the management and control of ICT projects in government departments is to be introduced that will ensure that major ICT projects in all areas are managed to best practice standards.
He said a new cross-departmental peer review process is being introduced with immediate effect to existing and new ICT projects.
“This new system will comprise senior personnel with a track record of successful management of projects, both IT and otherwise, on time and on budget,” Ahern said. “This cross-agency approach, bringing the best of the public service expertise to bear in all agencies, will be supplemented where necessary by external expertise from the private sector and internationally.
“From now on, this review will apply at various stages of contracts over the full lifecycles of projects, commencing with the initial approach being proposed. The persons conducting the review will be independent of the project teams.
“This review of critical stages in the lifecycle of projects will provide assurance that a project can progress successfully to a next stage. More realistic time and cost targets will be secured, knowledge and skills in the public sector will be improved through participation in this process, while those managing projects will get timely, independent advice and guidance,” the Taoiseach said.
Ahern said the Government has also decided on a number of new measures to improve the management and use of consultancies in public sector IT projects.
He said: “The level of engagement of consultancies in any department/agency necessarily reflects their specific circumstances. The need for consultancies generally arises because of lack of in-house expertise or skills, or where there are insufficient in-house resources to complete a task in a necessary timescale, or where there is a need for an independent or objective view.”
The Taoiseach said a number of measures have been approved at Cabinet level governing the use of consultancies.
Firstly, in the context of the formulation of the 2006 Book of Estimates, ministers will review financial provisions for consultancy. “In that context,” Ahern said, the ministers “will confirm that the guidelines are being applied in their departments and that proposed expenditure is necessary.”
Secondly, the Department of Finance will review existing guidelines on the commissioning and management of consultancies to ensure that they accord with the best practice.
And finally, the Government is instructing general secretaries and accounting officers of government departments to certify compliance with the terms of the new controls in respect of major projects.
By John Kennedy