The Victorian government ICT dashboard relied on incomplete or inaccurate data that is reported too late, putting the integrity of the entire service at risk, the state’s Auditor General has found.
A Victorian Auditor-General’s Office report on state’s ICT dashboard, which tracks the progress of all public sector ICT projects worth more than $1 million, found that although it had improved transparency of the projects, its effectiveness was jeopardised by unreliable data.
The dashboard was launched in March 2016 and provides reports on the cost, expected completion timeframe and implementation status of state’s ICT projects. Despite its many flaws, the dashboard has seen a “marked improvement in the availability and visibility of ICT project data”, the report found.
But the report also found a lot of room for improvement. The auditor conducted detailed reviews of selected projects listed on the dashboard, looking at the data provided and its accuracy.
It compared data listed on the dashboard against source documents from the agencies, and found several errors and inaccurate information, highlighting “the need for both agencies and [Department of Premier and Cabinet] to have stronger systems in place to report accurately”.
“It is reasonable for the public to expect information sources like the ICT Dashboard to be authoritative and reliable. If they are not, then public confidence in the integrity of this information may be eroded,” the report said.
Because of the inaccuracies described on the small amount of projects that were investigated, the auditor said this bad data was most likely much more widespread.
“We are not able to give assurance on the overall completeness, accuracy or integrity of the data on the dashboard because we detected a number of data errors for the projects we reviewed, we detected some projects that were not reported by the agencies we reviewed, [and] we observed that nearly one-third of all projects reported on the ICT Dashboard were disclosed later than they should have been,” the report said.
“Based on the anomalies we detected in a small subset of all the reported data, we suspect that this problem is more widespread. These inaccuracies show that DPC and agency processes are not adequate to properly assure the integrity and reliability of source data, which is fundamental to the overall accuracy and completeness of the ICT Dashboard.”
These omissions of data were due to “human error” and had no “discernible pattern”, the auditor found.
It found that many projects were not listed on the dashboard when they be, and some that are listed are being updated very late. The report found that there is a lag of at least three months before data on the projects is published.
“This data lag means that the ICT Dashboard has limited utility as a management support tool. For many fast-moving ICT projects, a three-month data delay can mean that what is publicly reported does not reflect what is actually currently happening with the project,” it said.
The auditor found five eligible government ICT projects which the selected agencies had not listed on the dashboard.
“Agencies are not consistently identifying whether their ICT projects will have, or already have, reached the threshold of $1 million,” the report said.
The auditor provided six key recommendations to the state government to improve the dashboard’s performance.
It advised the Department of Premier and Cabinet to amend the reporting standards for the dashboard to require agencies to provide a “more descriptive and standardised narrative” about the ICT project, including its purpose and value proposition, expected impact and information on the expected benefits.
It also recommended these standards require the reporting of expected project benefits, for a consistent view of project status across the public sector, and for the government CIO and CFO to jointly sign-off on the ICT projects list.
The auditor also said the government should consult with its agencies to decide on the most useful data fields to be included in the data standard, conduct strategic analysis of ICT project categories and identify “methods to review and confirm the accuracy and completeness of data reporting and communication with agencies”.
To the agencies it reviewed, the auditor recommended they improve records management practices for their ICT projects.