Local technology firm Shine Solutions has been given a $350,000 pay rise from the federal government for its ongoing work on COVIDSafe, bringing the total amount spent on contractors to develop the controversial contact tracing app to $5.5 million.
The federal government has now paid Shine Solutions nearly $2 million for work on COVIDSafe, which is yet to identify a new close contact anywhere in Australia except for New South Wales. In that state the app has found 17 close contacts not previously identified by manual contact tracers.
It comes a week after the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), which led the development of the app, defended COVIDSafe amid a barrage of criticism from Labor senators during a senate estimates hearing.
In an contract amendment posted publicly this week, Shine Solutions has received a $343,200 contract boost for its ongoing work on COVIDSafe. This is not a contract extension, with Shine still working on the app as planned from 10 August to 3 February next year.
It brings the total contract value to $1,129,900 over six months. Shine Solutions was also paid $792,000 for early development work on COVIDSafe, bringing its total paycheck to just under $2 million for less than a year’s work.
Shine Solutions is a Melbourne-based tech consulting firm and an AWS integrator.
The company is now the highest paid contractor to work on the app. The Boston Consulting Group was paid $1 million for its work on COVIDSafe, and AWS paid $700,000 to provide cloud hosting services.
Most recently, Cevo won a contract worth $1.04 million over six months to provide ongoing development work on COVIDSafe.
The private contractor bill for COVIDSafe is now at about $5.5 million, but the overall figure is likely to be significantly higher once internal costs and advertising spend is taken into account.
COVIDSafe has been widely criticised for a lack of effectiveness in detecting new close contacts around the country, with questions raised over its performance on Apple devices, how it measures what a close contact is, and why the government isn’t opting to implement the contact tracing framework provided by Apple and Google.
Earlier last week NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said that COVIDSafe has “obviously not worked as well as we had hoped”.
At a senate estimates hearing last week, Labor senators questioned DTA officials over these “very underwhelming” numbers.
DTA chief executive Randall Brugeaud said the contact tracing app is “absolutely” working as intended.
“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.
“Our intention is to continue to use the current COVIDSafe app in line with requirements from the Department of Health.”