Audit office to review govt tech misfires

Two of the federal government’s most high-profile technology misfires of the past year, Defence’s myClearance vetting system and Parliament’s expenses management system, are to be examined by the Australia’s national auditor.

The auditor is also contemplating an audit of the National Disability Insurance Agency’s (NDIA) new Salesforce customer relationship management system, which more than doubled in price before it had even been launched.

Releasing its work plan for 2023-24 on Thursday, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) revealed the programs confirmed for review over the next 12 months, as well as those targeted for potential audits.

Parliament House
Parliament House, Canberra

The audit into the $130 million Accenture-built myClearance system, which will be tabled by April 2024, will examine the Defence’s implementation to date and the effectiveness of the original procurement.

It follows months of technical issues that began when the system was rolled out late last year, initially requiring staff to be temporarily redeployed to manually process the backlog of security clearances.

In May, the technical issues with myClearance were said to have been largely resolved, but a logjam of clearances persists, creating issues for agencies that require vetting like the Australian Signals Directorate.

After receiving a referral from Special Minister of State Don Farrell last year, the ANAO has also begun an audit into the Parliamentary Expense Management System (PEMS), a SAP project that has blown out to almost $73 million. It is expected to hand the review to government by the end of the year.

The Department of Finance began developing PEMS in 2018 in response to the ‘Choppergate’ expense scandal that triggered a move away from paper-based reporting of parliamentary office and travel expenses.

While the system was progressively switched on from 2018, and has been fully operation for expense claims from July, the reporting module used to populate public expenditure reports of parliamentarians – a key transparency mechanism – is still not complete.

Other potential audits include the government’s $600-plus million digital identity system for a third year, the planned $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, and IP Australia’s cost recovery activities, as was flagged in the ANAO’s draft work plan.

The former Morrison government’s $1.3 billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative, which was also marked for potential review earlier this year, has been spared, despite only a handful of the biggest grants being executed.

But the audit office has added a new potential audit into the NDIA’s new CRM system known as PACE (the Participants, Platforms and Processes Program), which was piloted in Tasmania in November 2022.

The cost system, which is expected to be rolled out nationwide by the end of this year, has climbed from $30.3 million over 36 months to $76.1 million over 62 months since the original contract was signed in 2020.

Salesforce also holds several other current software and support contracts with the NDIA totalling $43.7 million, bringing the total value of contracts to $119.8 million over five years – or close to $2 million a month.

Last month, the agency ordered an investigation into the selection of Salesforce as the provider of the system and referred public servants involved in the procurement to the Australian Public Service Commissioner after uncovering potential issues.

Also listed on the list of proposed audits is the continuation of the ANAO’s series of audits of cybersecurity, including with the Essential Eight mitigation strategies that were mandated by government last year.

Other potential being considered include:

  • Services Australia’s modernisation program, including the Welfare Payment Infrastructure Program, Single Touch Payroll and service centre modernisation
  • The procurement and contract management of the My Health Record by the Australian Digital Health Agency
  • The Australian Taxation Office’s governance over the implementation of emerging technology in its systems, as well as the Strategic Sourcing Program that is replacing its three biggest technology contracts
  • Defence’s implementation of the Defence Strategic Review and the 2018 Defence Industrial Capability Plan, and effectiveness of Defence’s probity arrangements when it procures technology products and services

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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