Another $2m spent on COVIDSafe app


Denham Sadler
Senior Reporter

The amount of government money provided to outside companies for development and maintenance work on the COVIDSafe contact tracing app has nearly doubled to $5 million, with new contracts worth more than $2 million made public this week.

Three new contracts posted to AusTender this week worth $2.3 million have been awarded by the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to two AWS tech consultants. This brings the total cost of COVIDSafe in terms of private contracts to nearly $5 million.

Shine Solutions, which has worked with the DTA since the initial stages of developing COVIDSafe, has won a contract amendment for this work worth $517,000. This brings the total value of its contract, which runs for six months from 24 April to 9 October, to $792,000.

contact tracing
Contact tracing: Another $2 million spent on the controversial COVIDSafe app

The same company was then awarded a new contract for “ongoing development and enhancements of government application” worth $777,700. The new chunk of work runs for six months from 10 August to 3 February next year.

Local AWS consultancy Cevo also won a contract for “ongoing development and enhancement of government applications” and will be paid $1.04 million for six months work on COVIDSafe.

The company, with offices in New South Wales and Victoria and in the ACT soon, has not previously worked on COVIDSafe.

A DTA spokesperson said the COVIDSafe app has been regularly updated since it was launched, and this will continue in the future.

“The COVIDSafe app continues to be improved and enhanced through iterative updates. Consistent with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules, the DTA will approach the market for support, development and enhancements as required to deliver on the government’s requirements,” the spokesperson told InnovationAus.

The opportunities for the further work on COVIDSafe were listed on the DTA’s Digital Marketplace in July. The two opportunities were only open to about 10 selected sellers each, and came with options for three extensions of six months.

A number of private contractors and consultants have worked closely with the government on the development of COVIDSafe since the very early days of the project in March this year.

The Department of Home Affairs initially had control of the project, bringing in three private companies on contracts worth more than $400,000. This included $165,000 for AWS, $220,000 for the Boston Consulting Group and $31,200 for CTO Group.

The work was quickly moved to the DTA, which kept BCG and AWS on board. These organisations have been paid $684,000 and $700,000 from the DTA for work on COVIDSafe respectively.

Shine Solutions was also initially paid $275,000 over three months by the DTA, Canberra cybersecurity firm Ionize was awarded $44,000 for its work while Canberra-based tech company Delv was paid $500,000 to work on COVIDSafe after earlier developing the government’s coronavirus information app.

This means private companies will be paid about $4.8 million for work on COVIDSafe, with other costs, including internal work and advertising, being difficult to quantify.

The contact tracing app has proved controversial, with criticism raised over the government opting for a centralised model rather than the decentralised approach offered by Google and Apple, and its lack of success in identifying any new cases in Victoria yet.

In an update to the app this week, users will now be able to access real-time statistics about the number of cases in Australia, and specifically in individual states or territories.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email or Signal.

3 Comments
  1. Nic 1 month ago
    Reply

    I strongly encourage anyone who vaguely technically minded to watch this break down of the CovidSafe app. It’s scary how half-baked their solution is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dsvi44CnpPw

  2. Chris Drake 1 month ago
    Reply

    According to their download numbers (which will always be much higher than active users), 77% of Australians do not use this app.

    Did anyone see the original marketplace listing? David Donovan (FCPA, Chief Finance Officer, Digital Transformation Agency (DTA)) told me “In relation to your concerns about the contract awarded to the Boston Consulting Group, I can advise that this contract was awarded following an approach though the Digital Marketplace. You can confirm this by referring to ‘Contract Notices’ section of the tenders.gov.au website for additional information.” – however – I’m *in* the marketplace, and I can not find any listing to verify his claim (and not in the contract-notices either, for that matter).

  3. Throwing good money after bad. How unusual.

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