A Canberra firm has been handed an additional $4 million for its work on COVIDSafe, with the government now having paid private contracts worth nearly $10 million for the development of the controversial contact tracing app.
An amendment posted online on Tuesday revealed that the value of Canberra mobile-first digital services company Delv’s contract for work on the app had jumped by just under $4 million to $6,069,929.
After another amendment worth $528,000, the contract was worth $2,376,000 before the latest pay increase.
Delv is still contracted for the same period of time – March 2020 to April 2021 – and it is unclear why the contract has tripled in size.
The contract amendment kicked in from 22 October, meaning the company will be paid the additional $3.7 million over a six month period.
This contract also includes work on the Coronavirus Australia information app that was rolled out earlier this year, for which Delv was also paid about $1.5 million by the Department of Health.
COVIDSafe was recently updated to include statistics on the number of coronavirus cases in the country, something that was already incorporated in the information app built by Delv.
The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), which led the development of COVIDSafe, awarded Delv another contract amendment worth $528,000 at the end of April, and confirmed this was for work on the contact tracing app.
Delv will now work on further development and iterations of COVIDSafe until at least 22 April next year.
It brings the total private contractor bill for work on COVIDSafe to about $9.5 million, with Shine Solutions to receive nearly $2 million, the Boston Consulting Group netting $1 million, and Amazon Web Services receiving $700,000 for cloud hosting services.
Recently, Melbourne-based company Cevo also won a contract worth just over $1 million for six months’ work on COVIDSafe.
COVIDSafe is yet to pick up a new close contact anywhere in Australia except for New South Wales, where it has identified 17 people not already found by manual contact tracers.
These results have been labelled “very underwhelming” by the federal Opposition, with questions raised over whether people are still actively using it, and why the government is refusing to adopt the framework provided by Google and Apple.
Last month NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard admitted that COVIDSafe had “obviously not worked as well” as hoped.
At a recent Senate Estimates hearing, DTA chief executive Randall Brugeaud said the app is “absolutely” working as intended, and that there is no plan to adopt the alternative model provided by the tech giants.
“COVIDSafe works as is written on the label – it supports the public health efforts in the way that aligns with the way we operate in Australia. There is no intention to jettison the current app or start again or take an entirely new app from another country or company,” Mr Brugeaud said at the hearing.
“Our intention is to continue to use the current COVIDSafe app in line with requirements from the Department of Health.”
There are also no plans to interact QR codes into the app to assist with contact tracing as the legislation underpinning COVIDSafe does not allow for this, Mr Brugeaud said.
While the contractor bill for COVIDSafe is now sitting at nearly $10 million, the total cost is likely significantly higher once internal costs and advertising budgets are taken into account.