Adobe was decided as the software provider for the new myGov platform before the federal government had even devised a business case or approached the market, raising questions about a project that has now cost at least $80 million.
In the dying days of 2019, the Digital Transformation Agency went looking for a government digital experience platform, dubbed GovDXP, that would form the basis for an upgraded version of myGov – the first major refresh since its launch in 2013.
The vision for GovDXP, then described as a social media-inspired digital services platform that would take pointers from Netflix, promised a single view of citizen interactions with the government, including major service delivery agencies like Services Australia.
Big four consultancy Deloitte went on to secure a near-$1 million contract to develop the prototype GovDXP in a 90-day sprint using Adobe software products Experience Manager, Adobe Analysis and Adobe Campaign.
The deal was followed by a $19.5 million contract – revealed by the national auditor to have been sourced “directly outside of the Digital Marketplace portal” – in May 2020 for six months work on the next phase of the build. It was later revised up to $28.1 million.
Combined with other contracts relating to GovDXP, including systems integration and the newly-released myGov smartphone app, Deloitte’s total payout on the build is at least $45 million since the start of 2020.
Services Australia, which assumed responsibility for the myGov upgrade last year, also paid Adobe $32.3 million in September 2021 to provide “core technology components” behind the platform. The two-year deal has since increased in value by $3.3 million.
At the time of the initial contract for the prototype, the DTA would not say whether the technology decisions were made by Deloitte — a global Adobe partner — or by its own executives or other public servants elsewhere in government.
But InnovationAus.com can now reveal that the decision to use Adobe was made by senior leaders at the DTA prior to the 2019 procurement that resulted in the Deloitte-built prototype that would become the basis for the new myGov.
The decision also occurred before the DTA had called in McKinsey to develop the initial GovDXP business case in mid-December 2019. McKinsey was later paid another $1 million in 2020 for additional work on the business case.
“To easily measure the outcomes and potential benefits of this proof of concept in a standardised manner, DTA required all sellers to offer a solution based on Adobe capabilities,” a spokesperson said.
It is unclear if the DTA conducted a study of Adobe software and the available alternatives or sought advice before making a decision. The DTA has yet to respond to InnovationAus.com questions at the time of publication.
The spokesperson also confirmed that Deloitte responded to the request for quote to develop the prototype alongside Accenture, NTT and DXC Technology. The procurement ran for three weeks over the Christmas and New Year period in 2019-20.
According to the original brief on the Digital Marketplace, the DTA gave itself just five business days to assess the bids, estimating that work would begin on January 13 2020. Deloitte ultimately began work on the prototype on January 18 2020.
The DTA was roundly criticised by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) earlier this year for its $28.1 million ‘horizon one’ myGov contract with Deloitte, which was reported as resulting from an ‘open tender’ despite the agency approaching the consulting giant directly.
The ANAO also said there was no evidence the procurement that resulted in the $28 million contract was conducted in line with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules, with no procurement plan developed and no consideration of value for money.
InnovationAus.com asked a series of detailed questions on the procurement of the prototype and horizon one works, including whether either of these contracts would form the basis for a broader review now underway, which the DTA declined to answer.
On Friday, the DTA confirmed during a Parliamentary inquiry that only active procurement is covered by the review.
Separately, Services Australia is now reviewing contracts linked to lobbying firm Synergy 360, including those with Adobe, after an alleged lobby scandal involving one-time Government Services minister Stuart Robert emerged.
The new myGov platform launched in September after a year-long beta but the upgrade is largely cosmetic. Additional functionality is expected to be added to the platform over time, including the possibility of a nudge feature to remind people to consider health screening.
Earlier this month, the myGov website was joined by a long-promised myGov app that has taken the last 18 months to develop. The app offers users the ability to prove their identity with a service provider using a QR code.
A major audit of myGov will be handed to the government before the end of the year to deliver reliability and usability improvements for users, building on the changes over the past year. The audit does not extend to the procurement of the platform.
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