Child support system in budget blow-out

Queensland's Department of Child Safety has revealed its new Information Renewal Initiative (IRI) will cost $61 million as it expands to accommodate additional agencies.

With initial funding of $44 million in 2004, the IRI program is a combination of several ICT projects, including information and communications technology renewal, an integrated client management system (ICMS) CRM, business intelligence and enterprise reporting, record keeping, and enterprise architecture.

A spokesperson for the Department of Communities and Disability Services Queensland said the IRI program's original scope and budget was based on delivering the information management reforms within the Department of Child Safety and Department of Communities; however, the scope has been "significantly expanded" to now involve additional government agencies. The IRI program will now overhaul information management infrastructure shared by four departments - the Department of Child Safety, Department of Communities, Disability Services Queensland, and the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy.

The new budget covers the 2004 to 2007 timeframe.

"So, while it is the case that the program is costing more than was originally estimated, this is not due to any budget over-run or blowout," the spokesperson said.

In September 2004, Fujitsu, Onyx and Microsoft were commissioned by the Department of Child Safety to deliver the first of three phases of the new ICMS based on Onyx CRM and Microsoft's .Net technology.

This design was delivered to the department "on time and budget" in March 2005, but since then the project has been brought back in-house, and according to one source has blown its budget, and 20 contractors including programmers, testers and technical writers were marched out the door earlier this month.

According to the source, Microsoft has been given a lot of the services work, and is believed to be "burning through $800,000 a fortnight". The spokesperson said no contractors were made redundant as a result of the completion of the Fujitsu-Onyx contract last year but conceded the project is "now placing greater emphasis on permanent resources".

"A project of this size and complexity will experience shifts in [resources] through different phases," the spokesperson said. "Recent project staffing levels have been assessed to establish greater efficiency in preparation for ongoing support."

While the in-house ICMS project team, and not Microsoft, is developing the system, the spokesperson said a number of Microsoft tools "and some expertise" are being used for the developmental stage of the project and the cost of this is "commercial in confidence".

Both Fujitsu and Onyx told Computerworld they have not had any further involvement with the ICMS project since July 25, 2005, when the department announced that it would be leveraging internal resources for the subsequent phases of the project.

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