Budget 2012: IT spared in spending cuts

By John Hilvert on May 9, 2012 7:42 AM
Filed under Services

Funds committed for IT to drive health and welfare projects.

The total amount of Federal Government spending on IT initiatives is unlikely to suffer from Treasurer Wayne Swan's search for $34 billion in savings over the coming 12 months, according to an iTnews analysis.

Contrary to expectations, the total cost of Government IT initiatives listed in budget papers released overnight fell broadly in line with expenditure announced for 2011/12.

IT or IT-related initiatives came in at just under a $1 billion over the next four to five years.

Most of this investment (outlined in detail below) is focused on program changes in the health and welfare portfolios.

Total Government staffing will be reduced from 261,637 to 258,563 – a drop of 3.1 percent. The Australian Taxation Office  will be down 1,039, Customs by 190 and Defence/DMO by 624.  The Department of Human Services will lose just 440 of its 32,714 staff after already cutting back during 2011/12.

“The cuts to capital and operation expenditure through the efficiency dividends will clearly have an effect on day to day running of IT in government agencies,” said Kevin Noonan, Ovum’s Research Director for the public sector. 

“But the big message from this Budget is one of opportunity. There will be a lot of IT work coming out of new or changed programs."

Noonan expects wise investments in IT to result in a drop in IT support and operations costs.

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The winners

A large majority of the budgeted IT spend will be focused on eHealth.

Some $233.7 million over three years was committed to implemented the National e‑Health Program. There are also a range of separate telehealth initiatives attracting funding, based on the Government’s roll-out of the National Broadband Network.

The Government has also committed $240.3 million over four years to fund the IT requirements of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

This figure covers the development of an ICT system to monitor, track and evaluate the operation of the first stage of the project, plus a platform for a national roll-out.

Some $198 million in funding was announced for an aged care “Gateway” initiative over five years from 2012-13 (including $29.7 million in 2016-17), but iTnews cannot as yet verify how much of this funding will be used specifically to technology spend beyond $29 million on a My Aged Care web site.

On the welfare front, the Government is looking to spend up on self-service tools to reduce pressure on staffing costs.

It will provide $27.2 million to streamline income reporting processes for recipients of Family Tax Benefit (FTB) and for holders of the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) that no longer have to lodge a tax return as a result of the Government’s tripling of the tax free threshold from 1 July 2012.

This will allow people in the $6,000 to $18,200 income range to update their incomes online, over the phone or in person with the Department of Human Services (DHS) so that their FTB entitlement can be reconciled or CSHC eligibility determined.

Beyond health and welfare, the largest new technology project announced was $68.5 million over four years to improve the quality and currency of data held in the Australian Business Register (ABR).

Our tally of major initiatives:

  • $240.3 million to build systems for the first stage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
  • $233.7 million over three years to continue the National e‑Health Program. 
  • $198.2 million over five years from 2012-13 to establish an aged care gateway - $29.7 million of which will include a 'My Aged Care web site' by 2016-17.
  • $68.5 million for over four years to improve data quality and operation of the Australian Business Register (ABR). 
  • $27.2 million to streamline income reporting processes for recipients of Family Tax Benefit (FTB) and for holders of the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) due to changes to the tax-free threshold.
  • $22.2 million for the expansion of Telehealth Services in pilot projects and NBN early roll-out areas.
  • $20 million for marketing of the National Broadband Network.
  • $19.9 million over three years for the ABC's National Online Education Portal.
  • $17 million for enhancing the MySchool website.
  • $14.6 million for Information technology systems for key agencies such as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to develop a business case and undertake initial expenditure on the SuperStream project.
  • $11.7 million for a one-off grant to One Laptop per Child (OLPC) Australia.
  • $10.7 million over four years for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to develop and maintain an online registration system for auditors of self managed superannuation funds (SMSFs).
  • $9.6 million over four years for an electronic system for the registering of training contracts and processing of payments under the Australian Apprenticeships Program.
  • $8.9 million for systems to fight welfare fraud at the Department of Human Services (over four years from 2012‑13).
  • $8.1 million for trials of home telehealth for 300 war veterans living in NBN first-release sites. 
  • $7.9 million to expand the number of SmartGate self-processing passport control kiosks at international airports (Australian Customs and Border Protection Service).
  • $7.1 million over four years for to establish infrastructure and data analysis capabilities to identify and improve efficiencies in the blood supply chain.
  • $6.5 million over four years for administration and enhancement of the MySkills website.
  • $6.4 million over two years for digitisation of historical and cultural material held by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.
  • $6.2 million for video conferencing services for the Department of Human Services (DHS).
  • $5.6 million for from 2012-13 to 2014-15 for provision of the  BasicsCards payment system to income support recipients.
  • $3.4 million to establish an online community portal as part of the Anzac Centenary Program.
  • $2.4 million to asist the web presence of Australia's museums.
  • $2 million over two years for ICT infrastructure to support biosecurity operations.
  • $0.3 million for a one-year trial of advertising on the Bureau of Meteorology web site.
 
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