Thursday, June 06, 2013

Now It Seems All We Have To Wait For Is For Blame To Be Apportioned and The Legal Action To Start.

The Qld Health Payroll Enquiry has finished its hearings.
There has been some amazing coverage.
This was one I especially found interesting:

Former Qld health minister 'unaware' Qld payroll was so complex

When asked if he knew whether his department had one of the most complex payroll requirements in the government, Lucas said he did not
  • AAP (CIO)
  • 30 May, 2013 14:32
Queensland's former health minister says he was unaware how complex the department's payroll requirements were when he was considering an automated system that ultimately failed.
Lucas, also the former deputy premier, has been cross-examined by Queensland's health payroll inquiry on Thursday over the state's most costly IT fiasco.
It resulted in thousands of pay errors under his watch and is expected to end up costing taxpayers $1.2 billion.
He told the inquiry the health department wanted an automated payroll system to replace the ageing "Lattice" program.
He said a lot of data had to be entered manually by payroll staff.
"In retrospect the complexity of the system I think made it incredibly difficult to go to some super system from what was a very benign and forgiving way Lattice operated," he said.
More here:
You really would have thought the Minister’s advisors would have known just how complex these systems are especially in complex bureaucracies like Health.
This was also interesting:

Bligh defends 'judgment call' on health payroll

Date May 27, 2013 - 4:22PM

Amy Remeikis

State political reporter

The impacts on the state's health workers outweighed any possible gain from suing IT contractor IBM over the payroll system, former Premier Anna Bligh said.
Ms Bligh, appearing at the final stage of the Health Payroll System Commission of Inquiry, said she had considered suing IBM, but ultimately decided, at the time, it was not worth the loss of "goodwill" and what that could mean fixing the system.
Under questioning from Counsel Assisting Peter Flanagan SC, Ms Bligh said she made a "judgment call" not to launch legal action based on the advice and material provided to her at the time.
She said she was "primarily and constantly motivated by trying to fix this system".
"I put the practical considerations above the legal considerations when I made this decision, I believed sincerely that that was the right thing to do, I appreciate there might be other legal finer points that were sacrificed in that process," Ms Bligh said.
"But there was also a great sense of urgency. It might look on the documents as we look at them in hindsight that there were five weeks or seven weeks between these sorts of events, but when that is three or four pay packets that have failed you yet again, that's a very long time for people who every pay day have to go and make other arrangements.
"And when you say it is stabilising, you [Mr Flanagan] are right, but it was stabilising with considerable manual intervention that was unsustainable in the long term and we needed all of our partners with a lot of good will to be sitting hand in glove with us."
Commissioner Richard Chesterman asked Ms Bligh to clarify her position.
"What you are saying Ms Bligh, that regardless of the value of the state's rights, no matter how large they were, or how valuable they were, you'd have taken the same course?"
Ms Bligh answered: "If I had the same advice about the risk that this could significantly delay or see a serious breakdown between the technical support from IBM and related subcontractors that would have put the system at further risk, yes I believe I would have made the same decision."
Ms Bligh was premier when the state contracted out its health payroll system.
Lots more here:
This really has been quite a saga. The final report, which is due out in a few months, will be compulsory reading.


Anonymous said...

So how will history view this and where will this "evidence" reside on the performance and outcomes when BIG Govt and BIG IT collide?

One thing is for certain, the BIGGEST LOSER in this fiasco is the Net Taxpayer. Not the politicians, Not the Bureaucrats, Not the handsomely funded contractors and consultants, but the lowly left out in the cold NET Taxpayer.

An all too familiar and unfortunate circumstance these days.

Terry Hannan said...

If they thought Payroll was complex have them try and bit of Clinical Decision Making!

Bernard Robertson-Dunn said...

In my opinion, the QLD health payroll system failed for exactly the same reason most large scale IT projects fail - the customer did not understand what they wanted.

This is usually expressed in terms of requirements issues – scope creep, unstable requirements, unclear requirements etc etc.

Translating this into simple English: the buyer did not know what they wanted. That makes it very difficult for the seller to deliver.

It’s the equivalent of a shopper going into a supermarket and telling an assistant that their requirements are for seven evening meals, seven breakfasts and some lunches. The chances of the shopper getting food they and their family are happy with is very small.

That’s not to say that IBM is blameless. A supermarket assistant is quite likely to tell the shopper, in polite terms of course, sorry, you’re dreaming, I can’t help you. IBM should have recognised that QLD Health didn’t understand what they wanted and called a halt to the project and made it very clear why. To allow the customer to carry on spending money is IMHO, a failure of duty of care.

And I don’t think it is fair to blame Premier Bligh. Her defence: “If I had the same advice about the risk that this could significantly delay or see a serious breakdown between the technical support from IBM and related subcontractors that would have put the system at further risk, yes I believe I would have made the same decision." is, IMHO, quite justifiable.

Senior politicians rely on professional advice, in this case coming from several layers down in the decision making chain. The advice was flawed. I would think the blame lies closer to the senior professional IT people who developed and approved the business case.

To me, the saddest thing is that the lessons of failed IT projects rarely get learned.

And yes, the taxpayer foots the bill, but is powerless to do much about it.

And relating all this to the PCeHR, from what I've seen, I don't think DoHA or NEHTA full understand what problem they are trying to fix.

An example is the mobile App. What problem is this technology solving?

Minister Plibersek is quoted as saying “There’s a lot of health information that parents need to keep track of in the early years of their child’s growth, including immunisations, their growth rates and their development milestones."

Apart from the example of a childcare centre asking about immunisation status, there has been no scenario that I've seen that delivers any value.

It is unlikely that many parents are going to be making health decisions all on their own. I would have thought that such decisions would be made in conjunction with their GP - who already has a lot of information on the child in their paper records today.

Some people might find it useful, some scenarios are realistic - families that travel - but has any cost benefit analysis been published that justifies the development and maintenance expenditure on this technology?

Sorry for the cynicism, but all I see is lots of money being spent on technology and not many health problems being solved.

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear Bernard! Hear, hear!