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                    [post_date] => 2017-06-19 12:45:11
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                    [post_content] => 

 

A senior public official from Victoria’s Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFB) executed an elaborate deception to employ her two sons by encouraging them to change their names and falsify their CVs.

The Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass’ report into the scam, released today [Monday], uncovered a case of naked nepotism within the metropolitan Melbourne fire service that she said had cost the public more than $400,000 over a number of years.    

The MFB’s Chief Information Officer, Mary Powderly-Hughes, hid her relationship to her son, David Hewson, when she hired him in July 2014.

She employed her other son, Barry Robinson, two years’ later to backfill Mr Hewson’s position after she handing him a permanent role as the Manager of IT Administration, Finance, Procurement and Projects.

Leaving nothing to chance, Ms Powderly-Hughes typed her sons CVs, faked their employment history and told them the interview questions beforehand. She also pretended to carry out reference checks after interviewing them.

To make doubly sure her second son got over the line for a procurement manager role, Mrs Powderly-Hughes ‘interviewed’ Mr Robinson at her home and drilled him in IT finance packages, despite him being woefully underqualified for the role and ordinarily working as a motor mechanic.

The three were sprung after a whistleblower reported their concerns to the Ombudsman.

“I have my suspicions that Mary Powderly Hughes has hired her son, or family member, or someone with a very close connection and I think she’s manipulated things to make sure he got the job when it became permanent. When he was a contractor he quickly got a rate rise, which is quite rare for most people,” the manager told Ms Glass.

The Ombudsman investigated the tangled web the trio had weaved using social media and official records.

Officers matched Mr Hewson’s mobile phone number listed on his MFB emails with his role as Treasurer of the local cricket club. They then matched his personal email address with a Facebook account for a Mr Hughes, which revealed the suburb he lived in, the same as the cricket club. The Victorian Electoral roll listed a David Patrick Powderly-Hughes in the same suburb.

Mr Hughes Facebook account also showed he had previously worked for Parks Victoria, which Mrs Powderly Hughes had also listed in her past jobs on her LinkedIn account.

A search of the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages showed that the men were her sons and had both changed their names a few weeks’ before starting work at MFB.

Ms Glass said the case was an egregious example of self-interest.

“Some cases I have investigated over the years seem so unlikely you could not make them up. Except, as in this case, they did,” Ms Glass said.

“The facts of the case are that a senior public official at the Metropolitan Fire Brigade hired her son, not declaring the relationship, having falsified his CV and coached him prior to interview, three weeks after he changed his name to conceal the relationship. 

“After giving him a pay rise and moving him into a permanent role, she then hired her second son, also falsifying his CV and “interviewing” him at her home after he, too, had changed his name to conceal the relationship,” said Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass. 

Ms Glass said she had rarely come across such blatant and calculated behaviour.

“Often the cases are minor, although wrong. Not this time, this was a case of deception where the family nest was feathered, plain and simple.” 

Unsurprisingly, all three have left MFB since the investigation blew up. Ms Powderly-Hughes resigned on the day of her interview with the Ombudsman and both of her sons have since been sacked.

Ms Glass said cases were often difficult to detect and she underlined the importance of colleagues raising the alarm if they saw anything suspicious going on at work.

“The case also serves as a salient reminder of the importance of disclosers acting on suspicion that something is awry in their workplace. More often than not, as the saying goes, where there is smoke, there is fire.”

She said that while the agency could not be held responsible for the deception perpetrated upon it in this case it needed to beef up its conflict of interest policies.
                    [post_title] => Senior public official secretly employs sons after name changes and doctored CVs
                    [post_excerpt] => Pretend reference checks and pay rises for the family.
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                    [post_content] => 
Hilltops Council is one of the NSW councils facing a bill for its merger. Pic: Facebook.

 

The NSW government has left some councils with hefty bills to pay since their forced amalgamations in May last year.

Government News understands that mergers have ended up costing some NSW councils more than the state government merger and transition funding they were given.

Rural and regional councils, in particular, are resentful because they received only half of what metropolitan councils were given to cover the process and yet they often receive much less from rates and have lower reserves.

Rural and regional councils received $5 million for each merger, while metropolitan councils were handed $10 million for their mergers under the state government’s New Council Implementation Fund (NCIF).

But there were caveats. The funding could only be used for certain things, such as getting expert advice and integrating IT systems, but not to pay ongoing staff costs or council administrators, who replace councillors and mayors until the local government elections in September.

Councils were also given between $10 to $15 million of Stronger Communities funding to go towards community projects and infrastructure.

Despite the funding, some councils are finding there is a reality gap.

Hilltops Council, a merger between Boorowa, Harden and Young Councils in the South West Slopes of the state, estimates that it will end up spending $6.5 million on its merger, a shortfall of $1.5 million.

Greens MP and Local Government Spokesperson David Shoebridge said residents of the three former council areas would be ‘shaking their heads’ at the figures and wondering where the $1.5 million extra would come from.

“Every independent expert said at the start of this process that amalgamations would be more expensive and more disruptive than the government pretended, and now we are seeing this come true,” Mr Shoebridge said.

“The incompetence of the Coalition is really staggering, and now they are expecting residents in the local councils they have destroyed to meet the cost of their failure.”

Hilltops General Manager Anthony McMahon said he did not understand the logic behind giving rural and regional councils significantly less funding to cover their merger costs than their metro counterparts.

“In our case, we’ve been responsible for bringing three councils together that are geographically separated,” Mr McMahon said.

“We’re also a water utility and we have additional constraints in relation to having two former councils with populations under 5,000, which means we have to comply with Section 218CA of the Local Government Act.  These factors are not a consideration for metro councils.”

The council will finalise its transitional costs and then consider whether to lobby the state government for the money.

“We’re focused on ensuring Hilltops Council is adequately resourced to complete the merger process, and will be making representations to Minister Upton accordingly,” Mr McMahon said.

“We’ve made clear our determination in ensuring the community does not pay for merger-related costs.”

But it is not only regional councils who have been left to pick up the tab for the mergers most of them fought hard against.

Sydney’s Northern Beaches Council, an amalgam of Manly, Pittwater and Warringah Councils, received $10 million for its upfront merger costs and has only $105,000 left in the kitty.

The council’s biggest outlays were $2.5 million for staff redundancies and $2.8 million for system integration.

Northern Beaches Council acknowledges it faces further restructuring costs in the draft of its 2017-2018 Operational Plan.

“It is recognised that council will incur further restructuring costs such as the cost of integration, aligning positions within the new organisational structure and new salary system which will exceed the funding provided,” says the plan.

“Accordingly the Long Term Financial Plan has been prepared on the basis that once the NCIF has been fully utilised, existing budgets will firstly be used to pay for those merger and transition costs not funded through this mechanism prior to the identification of net savings.”

Brian Halstead President of Save Our Councils Coalition, a community group against forced council mergers, said a funding shortfall had always been on the cards.

“The amount that the government allowed was based on the KPMG report, which under costed amalgamations and because they’re not allowing councils to book the ongoing staff costs and administrators against the funding,” Mr Halstead said.

He said some council staff were spending 25 per cent of their time managing the merger process, including harmonising service delivery and staff pay and conditions, and that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian should stump up the extra cash.

“If I was a ratepayer, I would be thinking that these amalgamations have been forced on them by state government. It’s only reasonable that the state government bear the costs of amalgamation but I doubt any of the administrators will [ask] because they’re paid public servants.”

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Keith Rhoades said he was not surprised that merger costs had exceeded the funding available.

“LGNSW, along with a number of academics and other experts, argued strongly throughout the process that there was a strong potential for additional costs,” Mr Rhoades said.

“It was always clear that the cost of individual amalgamations would vary from council to council depending on readiness, systems compatibility, staff skills etc and in fact this is one reason why forced amalgamations can be more difficult than those that are achieved voluntarily, after extensive meaningful consultation.”

Roberta Ryan, Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Governance at the University of Technology Sydney, said it was hard to predict the cost of mergers but the state government had given it their best shot at trying to work it out from past experience.

She said the cost of mergers would depend partly upon the extent of co-operation between councils before they merged, for example through shared IT systems and services and the level of regulatory harmony in an area.

“I understand there has been a shortfall for a number of councils,” Ms Ryan said.

“Many regional and rural councils would have found it harder and more expensive because the amount [they were given] was less and some of them may not have been working towards some of these things that some of the metro councils were.”

The ability of new councils to absorb any cost blowout was highly variable, she said.

“Some councils have good reserves but some of the smaller ones are very strapped financially.”

Asked when the true costs and savings from mergers would be known she said: “Not ever - as we don’t have the base line data available - there can be overall benefits and improvements - that may have happened even if the amalgamations didn’t happen.”

The Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) would not say whether any NSW councils had approached Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton to fund the shortfall or whether the government would act, should this occur.

The DPC statement would only say:

“The NSW Government has provided an unprecedented level of support to new local councils.

“The NSW Government provided new councils with $375 million to implement the mergers and kick start investment in new services and infrastructure for their residents.

“New councils in regional areas received $5 million to cover the costs of merging, as well as $10 million for a merger of two councils or $15 million for a merger of three councils, which is to be used for community, services and infrastructure projects.”
                    [post_title] => NSW councils fork out for forced mergers as government funding dries up
                    [post_excerpt] => Councils could petition Berejiklian for shortfall.
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                    [post_content] =>  


Graduates at Southern Cross University. Pic: Facebook.

 

NSW universities recorded a combined operating surplus of $631 million last year and have coped with government funding cuts by reining in spending and increasing their income from student fees and other sources, an audit has found.

Auditor-General Margaret Crawford’s report, Universities: 2016 Audits, released yesterday (Tuesday) by the Audit Office of NSW, found that the state’s ten universities were managing to stay afloat despite government cutbacks.

Ms Crawford said: “Universities are managing the impact of continued downtrend in Commonwealth government grants by diversifying revenue and constraining expenditure.”

She said universities were now ‘less reliant’ on government grants.

The audit found that all of the universities recorded a surplus in 2016 and their combined growth in revenue exceeded their expenditure growth by 1.1 per cent, compared to a negative position (of 1.3 per cent) in 2015.

However, at an individual level, five universities saw their rate of expenditure growth surpassing their revenue growth.

Charles Sturt University had the highest negative earnings gap at 1.8 per cent, due to increased tuition contracts, while Sydney University’s negative earnings gap of 1.7 per cent was primarily due to an increased wage bill and a write down of capitalised project costs.

Three other universities also had a negative earnings gap: University of New England (1.2%), University of Western Sydney (1.1%) and the University of Wollongong (0.9%).

Southern Cross University had the highest positive earnings gap at 10.7 per cent, driven primarily by an increase of $13.4 million in Commonwealth Government Education Investment Fund. Next was University of Technology Sydney at 3.9%; University of NSW with 3.7 per cent; Newcastle University 2.9% and Macquarie University with 2.3%.

Much of this financial buoyancy appears to be from a 25 per cent increase ($458 million) in overseas student revenue, a massive jump of 71.4 per cent since 2012.

Last year was the first time NSW universities have earned more from overseas students’ course income than from domestic students’ course income.

Ms Crawford said: “Some NSW universities' business models depend on international students' intake to be financially sustainable. These universities manage income concentration risk by focusing on increasing the geographical diversity of overseas students.”

The balance between income gained from student course fees and government grants has been shifting over the last five years.

Income from student course fees jumped from 39 per cent in 2012 to almost 46 per cent in 2016, whereas Commonwealth grants have dropped from 42 per cent of universities’ income in 2012 to 36 per cent in 2016.

The report echoes an earlier Deloitte Access Economics study using data from 17 Australian universities, which found that Australia’s universities receive sufficient revenue through government funding and student fees to cover the cost of teaching most degrees.

Two major exceptions were dentistry and veterinary science, which were both found to be underfunded.

The study compared the average cost of delivering courses and said this had increased by 9.5 per cent between 2010 and 2015 while revenue went up by 15 per cent over the same period.

Managing the risks 

Despite these encouraging numbers from both surveys, universities face an uncertain future after federal Budget measures slugged them with an efficiency dividend of 2.4 per cent in May, alongside hiking up student fees and pushing graduates to repay loans more quickly.

The report identifies the top five strategic risks to NSW universities:
  • Government policy changes
  • Technology disruption
  • Increasingly competitive market for international students
  • Future financial sustainability
  • Investment in research not providing the desired outcomes and excellence
The Auditor-General said some universities’ heavy reliance on overseas students made them vulnerable to fluctuations in overseas student numbers and this risk needed to be planned for and managed. Ms Crawford also said universities needed to keep pace with the practical demands of the job market, particularly where technology was concerned. The report said that NSW universities' current course enrolment statistics did not appear to mirror published skills shortages. “Courses with the highest proportion of enrolled students such as creative arts, society and culture do not mirror the skills shortage requirements in NSW for health, ICT and engineering,” it said. “Aligning students' enrolment with the fields of skill shortages within the state would ensure funds are directed to educate graduates that can be employed.” Another risk flagged was the need for universities to have a strategy for dealing with cyber threats and threats to intellectual property by tightening up their information security. “NSW universities need to review the design and effectiveness of their information security controls to ensure intellectual property, staff and student data are adequately protected,” the Auditor-General recommended. This was mainly around password settings and administration of user access. User password settings need to be improved on the financial systems to help to reduce the risk of data leaks and inappropriate access. The 2016 Threat Report of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, identified intellectual property as a potential target for cyber criminals. “Universities generate a significant amount of intellectual property through their investment of public and commercial funds into research. The report also noted that cyber criminals are using increasingly sophisticated ways to elicit this high value,” said the audit. Ms Crawford said that some universities were addressing these risks through ‘stress testing and scenario analysis models’ to understand and plan appropriate responses. [post_title] => NSW universities are doing ok, says audit [post_excerpt] => Overseas student numbers soar. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-universities-ok-says-audit [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-09 10:03:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-09 00:03:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27322 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27309 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-06 11:07:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-06 01:07:45 [post_content] => Inner West Council meeting. Pic: Facebook. A NSW council has defended itself over criticism that it did not put a $9.4 million IT contract out to tender, saying it followed local government procurement rules and needs to urgently integrate its IT systems post-amalgamation. Inner West Council in Sydney has hired TechnologyOne to consolidate its IT systems following the forced amalgamation between Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville Councils in May last year. Leichhardt and Marrickville Councils already used TechnologyOne but Ashfield used Civica International, TechnologyOne’s main industry rival. A council spokesperson said the decision not to go to open tender complied with Section 55(3)(i) of the Local Government Act 1993, which states “… because of extenuating circumstances, remoteness of locality or the unavailability of competitive or reliable tenderers, a council decides by resolution (which states the reasons for the decision) that a satisfactory result would not be achieved by inviting tenders”. Contracts over $150,000 normally go out to tender but the council is pleading ‘extenuating circumstances’, which it says includes: the council merger; the fact there are only two main industry service providers; the long-term benefits to the council and community and the urgency of integrating IT services across the new council after the merger, arguing that the tender process would ‘add a significant and unreasonable time delay’. The spokesperson said: “Two out of the three former councils already have Technology One licenses and use TechnologyOne products so we are simply continuing an existing relationship with this supplier. This decision was in the best financial and other interests of our residents. “TechnologyOne is an Australian based company and their superior technology will allow council to take a quantum leap forward in how we do business.” But Greens MP and Local Government spokesperson David Shoebridge isn’t buying it. “They’ve rushed headlong into a five-year contract on the basis that there was a desperate urgency,” Mr Shoebridge said. “It is remarkable that what started as a quick patch job has ended up with this almost permanent service provider.” He said Civica provided similar solutions to local government around Australia and would have been ready to respond quickly to an invite to tender to ensure the council got the best IT solution. “These assumptions are best tested through competitive tender process, that’s how you get value for money," Mr Shoebridge said. Meanwhile, Civica has asked why merged councils would sidestep the tender process without testing alternatives. A Civica spokesperson said the company disputed that a single supplier was the best path for councils to go down and said this could push out other vendors.  "We believe that councils want best-in-class solutions and sometimes that can be a mix of suppliers," the spokesperson said. "What was the harm in them going out to tender? We believe that they could have generated a better commercial outcome, even if they continued to go with that provider." Inner West Council’s $5 million IT contract includes integrating its IT and telephone network, external website and intranet and one-time ‘building costs’. A further $4.4 million will cover annual software licencing fees of $1.6 million over five years. TechnologyOne licencing fees will replace existing annual fees. [post_title] => Merged council says it followed procurement rules over $9m IT contract [post_excerpt] => Pleads ‘extenuating circumstances’ [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => merged-council-says-followed-procurement-rules-9m-contract [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-06 11:28:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-06 01:28:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27309 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27284 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-02 11:24:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-02 01:24:51 [post_content] =>   NSW councils tentative on housing affordability package Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has welcomed NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s ‘promising ideas’ in the state’s new housing affordability package but said the reforms were ‘somewhat light on detail’. The reforms include stamp duty concessions for first home buyers, changes to the first home buyer’s grant, higher taxes on foreign investors and accelerating council-led rezonings and development application approvals. "LGNSW congratulates the government on its efforts to do what it can to support housing affordability, and there's nothing we'd like more to do than to come out and praise their efforts,” LGNSW President Keith Rhoades said. "Unfortunately until there is more detailed information available it really seems to be a case of the devil will lie in the detail." Mr Rhoades said the sector welcomed many components of the package, including the ‘very positive’ move to lift the cap on development contributions to ensure new homes had the necessary infrastructure to support them, like footpaths, roads and parks. He also cautiously welcomed the announcement of funding of up to $2.5 million for ‘growth priority councils’ to help councils update their Local Environment Plans quicker. "It's great news that these ten to 15 councils will be supported to plan for future growth, but we are a little concerned at the suggestion that councils should accelerate the rezoning of land," Mr Rhoades said.  "Rezoning needs good strategic planning at a local level, and it's important that we don't give this up in the pursuit of speed at all costs.” He said it was unclear whether the government’s new guidelines around protecting the local character of communities would have much force. However, Mr Rhoades said councils were pleased the government had not moved straight to mandatory independent planning panels for deciding larger development applications. "These panels work very effectively for some councils, but other councils don't see the need for them - it really needs to be a matter of local choice.”   Digital marketplace for smart cities Local councils can now use the Digital Transformation Agency’s (DTA) Digital Marketplace platform to collaborate on smart city projects, including smart lighting, rubbish collection and infrastructure modelling. The new functionality, which is expected to become permanent, was introduced to help councils find suppliers for the innovative products and services they need to deliver smart city ideas. “There is a great appetite for innovation within local councils, who are at the forefront of smart city initiatives,” Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor said. “Already 25 per cent of registered buyers on the Digital Marketplace are local government and there are more than 400 sellers who can provide the digital expertise they need to transform their communities.” There are already some exciting projects up on the Digital Marketplace, such as Sunshine Coast’s underground waste collection project and Ipswich Council’s 5D data modelling, which brings together streams of data to build a five-dimensional view of the city’s infrastructure. The Marketplace is supporting the federal government’s Smart Cities Plan and complements the $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program. Applications for the first round of the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program close on 30 June 2017.  Eight Sydney councils will offer residents free energy advice Eight Sydney councils will offer free energy advice to residents through the Our Energy Future partnership, going live on World Environment Day, Monday 5 June. Eight councils are working with Our Energy Future: Inner West, Bayside, City of Canada Bay, Canterbury-Bankstown City, Georges River, City of Parramatta, Randwick City, and City of Sydney. Our Energy Future (formerly Our Solar Future) will involve an energy advice website, phone line and free, no-obligation quotes on solar and assessment services. Users can find information such as trusted solar and storage battery retailers and installers and tips on improving the energy efficiency of their homes and workplaces. For a discounted rate, Our Energy Future experts can also conduct comprehensive energy assessments to offer more tailored advice.   Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) President Councillor Sally Betts said she was excited about the launch. “We’re delighted that Our Energy Future and SSROC have been able to come together with eight councils to deliver financial savings to our local residents,” she said. Our Energy Future is coordinated by Positive Charge, a not-for-profit social enterprise. “Our organisation has its foundations in working with local government to reduce emissions and increase the use of renewable and energy efficiency technologies,” said Manager Positive Charge Kate Nicolazzo. “We are thrilled to be partnering with SSROC to bring this award-winning service to Sydney-region residents,” she said. SSROC General Manager Namoi Dougall said, “Our Energy Future is a key element of SSROC’s Renewable Energy Master Plan, and will be run by Positive Charge for a 15-month pilot.” [post_title] => Around the councils: Digital Marketplace open for smart cities; Response to NSW housing reforms [post_excerpt] => And eight Sydney council's energy efficiency push. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => around-councils-digital-marketplace-open-smart-cities-response-nsw-housing-reforms [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-02 11:32:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-02 01:32:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27284 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27251 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-30 11:18:08 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-30 01:18:08 [post_content] =>   NSW Finance Minister Victor Dominello at CeBIT last week. Pic: CeBIT   NSW is edging ahead of other states and territories when it comes to offering a ‘seamless digital experience’ when people transact with government but it needs to keep the digital journey consistent for users, says an expert. The new NSW digital strategy, launched last week, promises to focus the state’s efforts on improving the way the government deals with customers, digitalising as many transactions as possible and simplifying processes. Designing our Digital Future went public at last week’s CeBIT conference where the NSW Finance Minister, Victor Dominello, said the new strategy “represents a bold vision for ICT reform and cultural change within the NSW government”. “This is not just an upgrade; this strategy provides the backbone for the delivery of next level, improved, user-centric services,” Mr Dominello said. The aim is to make government services ‘more connected, customer focused and outcomes driven’ and it hinges on three things: customer experience, data and being ‘digital on the inside’. Digital by default is the name of the game, with a target of 70 per cent of transactions done digitally by 2019. Improving customer experience is also central to the new strategy, meaning services and policies are designed around customer needs and made as simple, integrated and seamless as possible. The customer is king Alok Kulkarni, CEO of customer experience company Cyara, which has a number of government clients, said NSW was edging ahead of other states and territories by putting customer experience at the heart of policy making, service design and delivery and making it easier to deal with government. The state has already had success with its Service NSW, which gathers a broad range of government services and transactions under one roof, both online and via a network of one-stop shops. So too has NSW been forging ahead with digital identity, allowing many documents to be ported to mobile phones, with NSW driver’s licences the big one set to follow. But while the state’s successes are stacking up Mr Kulkarni advised cautious optimism. He said that for the new digital strategy to work, the government must ensure a consistent experience for users, by building across channels including online, phone and apps and across government departments and agencies. “It may be hard to work out who is responsible for that [customer] journey end-to-end and the accountability, who owns what,” Mr Kulkarni said. “It’s no longer an agency that you’re dealing with. You’re dealing with the NSW government.” Making help available across every channel and providing ‘contextualised assistance’, where customers only had to explain a problem once, would also help provide ‘a consistent personalised journey’. He said the government also needed to make sure it delivered on its promises to maintain public confidence, which had been dented by recent (federal) government disasters, including the 2016 Census meltdown and Centrelink robo debt. This would demand strong inter-agency communication and this must be reflected in internal cultures. Other critical factors included ensuring that digital platforms can serve customers properly. He said it was important to offer people a similar service to what they already got from the private sector, ‘if not more because they [the government] are meant to be working for them’.  “It’s very much achievable. The key thing for them is to make sure that they are able to deliver this experience to the customer and help them along the journey, holding the customers’ hand,” he said. “There’s the ability to leverage shared resources across different agencies and to pool resources to deliver on outcomes.” The task ahead did not have to be attempted all at once. Instead, services and channels could be rolled out iteratively and brought on one at a time. Mr Kulkarni also suggested making it easy for customers to give continuous feedback about services and their digital experience so that any problems can be fixed and processes improved. Data dominance Data is another essential part of giving people a smoother experience when dealing with government. The NSW digital strategy says that data will be open, collected and able to be shared digitally, as well as published in real time where possible. It will also be used to underpin policies and service design and should make it more responsive. Mr Kulkarni said collecting multiple data sources into a single store of data about each individual means people do not have to provide data multiple times. This can also extend to authenticating identity once, having single log-ins where possible and more synergy with documents. Mr Dominello spoke about two data initiatives at CeBIT: NSW Trends, a one-stop shop for public data on everything from hospital emergency waiting times to customer satisfaction with Service NSW; and dMarketplace, where citizens can consult third-party reviews to chose datasets “along the lines of ‘Trip Advisor’ or ‘Wotif’”. Digital on the inside Another key pillar of the strategy is ‘digital on the inside’, which means digital transactions are designed around user needs by streamlining processes across agencies and within clusters to eliminate duplication. Using whole of government platforms contributes to this. Artificial intelligence can be employed, for example through chat bots, to automate routine tasks and free up frontline staff for more complex queries. Mr Kulkarni said the changes would have a mostly positive impact on NSW departmental staff. “I think it’s quite exciting for them. They will be able to service the customer a lot better but they also need to change. “Some things they are in control of now they might not be in control of any more. They will have to come to terms with that. Agencies will have to make it about the customer.” The NSW digital strategy will be something every department and agency must grapple with, particularly because slippages against goals will be noticed. Each department must report every six months to the Government Chief Information and Digital Officer (GCIDO), who in turn will report against strategy goals to the Expenditure Review Committee. Chief Information Officers must provide a progress report every six months to the GCIDO, Damon Rees. [post_title] => NSW edges ahead with digital strategy but must keep promises, says expert [post_excerpt] => Keeping customer experience central to services. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27251 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-30 12:50:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-30 02:50:43 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27251 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27225 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-25 15:19:03 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-25 05:19:03 [post_content] =>   Last weekend’s myGov makeover has improved the troubled website but has the federal government missed an opportunity to cheer up myGov users after all the past frustrations they have endured? In a joint announcement last week, Digital Transformation Minister Angus Taylor and Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, said the website overhaul made myGov easier to navigate, less information dense and more responsive when accessed on smartphones and tablets. The government claimed that it was now easier for users to sign in and to unlock their own accounts when they had been suspended, reducing incorrect logins by 37 per cent. The changes were ostensibly in response to the rapid expansion of the numbers of people using myGov, around ten million, while log-ins doubled over the last two years to 242,000 per day. The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) said it had conducted ‘hundreds of hours of research’ into the experiences of users and responded to their complaints, including that myGov used difficult language, complex instructions and frequently left them locked out of their accounts. Joe Russell, Director of User Engagement at Victorian company Buzinga, which specialises in web and mobile app development, acknowledged the changes were positive but said that the government had missed the chance to speed up and really improve the experience for users. “It is basically functional: finally. Before it was hard to do any of the core things it was meant to do,” Mr Russell said. “It’s easier to use, yes, but there are still major issues. I wouldn’t call it a huge leap. “Reducing incorrect logins by 37 per cent. I wouldn’t have thought that was something to brag about. Being able to log in is an assumption you make when you go into any site.” While the DTA website talks about ‘reimagining’ the user experience and putting users’ needs first, Mr Russell said this had not been done to any great extent. He said simple fixes that could have streamlined things for users had been ignored, such as not having to enter the same data twice and the cursor automatically moving to the next field to enter data. Another deficiency was the lack of loading indicators after users submitted a form, so they were unsure of whether the form was loading or not. This often led to users hitting the back button and resetting and clearing fields they had already completed. Mr Russell questioned whether the project had carried out sufficient usability testing. This is where an ‘average’ user is given tasks to complete while they are timed and any difficulties noted and comments taken on board to measure their experience and suggest improvements. “It does what it claims to do. It’s an improvement, I will give them that” but he said the DTA had missed the chance to speed up user interaction with myGov and make data entry easier and faster. “Usability testing could have solved these small things. This is basic best practice,” he said. “All these little annoyances can be resolved and hopefully will be next time.” The DTA has said the website changes were a result of extensive research conducted in more than 20 metropolitan, regional and rural locations. The agency’s website says this research included usability testing, as well as visits to shopfront sites, support staff interviews and testing with users of assistive technology. A DTA spokesperson said that any changes needed to be carefully considered and tested with users. "A sensible approach, and one that's consistent with the Digital Service Standard, is to make iterative improvements based on user research," said the spokesperson. "The latest release builds on changes made last year. User research is continuing and will guide future improvements." But just as myGov’s usability had not come on in leaps and bounds, Mr Russell said the look and feel of the website had changed slightly but was not ground breaking, “It’s basically black text on a white background. It’s as vanilla as you can get”, he said. Nor was replacing service icons with text a positive change for people who were visually impaired, elderly or dyslexic and he disagreed with the assertion that member services logos and the Australian Government crest were more prominent. MyGov was launched in 2013 to provide a single access point for ten different agencies providing services including Medicare, tax, Centrelink, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and My Health Record. The rollout which occurred last weekend, was a joint project between the Department of Human Services, the Digital Transformation Agency and the Australian Tax Office. It seems that the question posed on the DTA website, ‘what could good look like’ has morphed into ‘what could barely adequate look like’? Further comment from DTA and DHS to follow.  [post_title] => MyGov verdict: functional (just) [post_excerpt] => ‘Little annoyances’ remain for users. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => mygov-verdict-functional-just [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-25 16:41:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-25 06:41:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27225 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27216 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-25 05:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-24 19:00:00 [post_content] =>    Bendigo Council's Presentation and Assets Director Craig Lloyd with Clean Cube. Pic: supplied.    A solar waste compactor that functions with an ordinary household wheelie bin will be trialled by a Victorian council keen to increase bin capacity, cut costs and reduce the number of rubbish collections the council makes.  The City of Greater Bendigo Council is currently trialling Clean Cube, a smart waste compactor which runs on renewable solar energy and tells you when it is full. The Clean Cube was developed by Korean start-up company Ecube and it can hold a 120 or 240 litre bin.  Bendigo Council’s Australian supplier is Smart City Solutions. City of Greater Bendigo Presentation and Assets Director Craig Lloyd said it could help reduce the cost of waste collection. “By reducing the frequency of collections there is the potential to reduce the costs and labour associated with providing waste collection services to public areas by up to 80 per cent,” Mr Lloyd said. “It’s important to look at the new technology that exists to see if it’s viable for our community.” He said the Clean Cube used smart technology and multiple sensors to measure the bin’s fill level in real time. “The sensors trigger the automatic compaction of waste inside the bin and by doing this the capacity of the bin is increased by up to eight times meaning it doesn’t have to be emptied as often,” Mr Lloyd said. “However when it is full, the Clean Cube electronically notifies the city’s waste collection staff that it needs to be emptied.” Mr Lloyd said the compactor’s smart technology also included safety features that could detect sudden temperature rises, such as a fire in the bin.  Using the compactor bins at events would also reduce overflowing and litter. Ecube Labs’ online marketing manager, Matti Juutinen, told IoTAustralia in June last year that the cube can hold up to eight times more rubbish than traditional bins. “We are the only company in the industry to offer an ultrasonic fill-level sensor (with 10 years battery life) and a smart solar-powered waste compacting bin on a single real-time monitoring platform that generates optimised schedules and routes based on fill-level forecasting,” Mr Juutinen said. He said the compactor could go for two to three weeks without sunlight once fully charged. Charging it takes three to four days if there has been at least four hours of sunlight on each day. The Clean Cube is being trialled at Lake Weeroona, the city’s most popular recreation area, until June 13. [post_title] => Korean solar waste compactor could slash councils' rubbish collection costs [post_excerpt] => Victorian council trials Clean Cube. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => vic-council-trials-korean-solar-waste-compactor-slash-rubbish-collection-costs [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-25 16:23:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-25 06:23:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27216 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27192 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-23 12:20:08 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-23 02:20:08 [post_content] =>   The federal government’s troubled myGov website has had a digital makeover to make it more intuitive to navigate, nicer to look at and easier to access using mobile phones or tablets. The overhaul was made more pressing by the large jump in traffic to the government services portal over the last two years. The federal government said that myGov had 10 million users and dealt with more than 242,000 logins every day: twice the number of logins from just two years’ ago. It is a pivotal website that millions of Australian must interact with daily, dealing as it does with a huge range of services. MyGov was launched in 2013 to provide a single access point for ten different agencies providing services including Medicare, tax, Centrelink, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and My Health Record. The government has recognised that any failure of myGov or rising customer frustration with the system can be a very public and vocal affair. Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor said in March this year: “The public will ultimately judge us when they go on to the myGov website, when they pay their tax or ask for a refund, when they come through immigration, when they are engaging with the industry portfolio as a small business, they will judge us on how that goes. “They’ll accept that there are speed humps along the way. But they will be unforgiving if that experience doesn’t continually improve.” The changes were in response to ‘hundreds of hours of user research’ which revealed common complaints about the website, including the difficult language used, confusing instructions and dumping large swathes of information on users.   People also complained about how often they were locked out of their accounts and the difficulty in getting these unlocked. The joint statement by Mr Taylor and Human Services Minister Alan Tudge about the myGov revamp said this problem had been addressed to make signing in easier and to allow users to unlock their own accounts once they had been suspended.  They claimed the changes had resulted in incorrect logins being reduced by 37 per cent. Mr Taylor said: “We listened and we got it. The new look myGov also demonstrates how the DTA can partner with other agencies and departments to transfer skills and transform delivery.” The sign-in process had already been tinkered with over the past year to show users passwords as they typed them (to cut down on login failures and account suspensions) and allowing people to use email or mobile numbers instead of just alphanumeric usernames. Mr Tudge said the government had incorporated user feedback and collaborated with other departments to fast-tracked changes. “Our investment in myGov is transforming the way people do business with government - making life easier for 10 million Australians,” Mr Tudge said. “In response to user feedback, we’ve also made it easier for users to find and access the services they need.” The rollout, which occurred over the weekend, was a joint project between the Department of Human Services and the Digital Transformation Agency and the Australian Tax Office. The government said the Discovery and Alpha phases were completed by the Digital Transformation Agency while the prototype stage and the beta product were a partnership between the ATO and DHS. [post_title] => MyGov: “we listened and we got it” says minister after digital makeover [post_excerpt] => Users double over two years. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => mygov-listened-got-says-minister-digital-makeover [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-25 09:45:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-24 23:45:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27192 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27165 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-18 15:50:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-18 05:50:21 [post_content] =>   By Allen Koehn, Associate VP and GM – Public Sector at Infosys We are entering a new phase of human evolution. However, it is not one comprising new limbs or larger eyes. Rather, it involves the pursuit of ultimate control, despite human error, through technological innovation. The robotic automation of society alluded to in the science fiction of our past is finally becoming a reality - one technological advancement at a time. Human involvement, paper-heavy administration and room for error are exponentially decreasing as technologies like blockchain digitise and automate entire processes and interactions. What started as a platform for the transaction of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies now has the potential to span industries and verticals across the globe. There has been much hype about blockchain, with banks reporting annual savings of US$8-12 billion after its implementation1, but seemingly little understanding about what exactly it is and how it can be put to valuable use in different sectors. What is blockchain? Transactions - financial or otherwise - occur across networks every second. With blockchain, each time a transaction occurs, a network of computers carry out a series of algorithms, identifying the originating device and its user, and validating the transaction. This transaction is then added to a digital ledger (public or private) and attached to an irreversible chain of transactional “blocks”. Verified transactions are permanently recorded, traceable and updated across the entire network every 10 minutes. Blockchain is decentralised – it does not have a central server or administrator, but rather exists on and is managed by the network itself. Unimaginable computational processing power is needed to override the network. There are no singular points of vulnerability and the corruption of any one bit of data results in its network-wide corruption. Ultimate visibility and control makes unauthorised actions impossible. Consequently, blockchain is almost entirely secure in the face of human-led threats.  It’s not just about security Blockchain’s automation makes paper trails redundant, exponentially decreasing lost documents or delayed payments. Imagine a future where financial transactions within governments are automatically and irreversibly recorded, or citizens can transact confidentially without physical presence at a government office. Costs are reduced, efficiency is improved and the way for ultimate transparency is paved. Governments and organizations alike can achieve a true competitive advantage with blockchain (and its accompanying applications and digital technologies). So, for those working in government, scratching your head about how to leverage this new technology, here’s five ways that I see blockchain being used in the public sector:
  1.  Identification
Gone are the days of a 100 point ID checks. With digitised birth certificates and ID documents, blockchain enables a single personal identifier. It is an entirely new and reliable way of identifying members of an ecosystem – from citizens to government agencies – enabling everything from digital voting (which is in the works for Australia’s 2017 elections) to confidential legal disputes.
  1. Registries
Blockchain enables the digitization of property titles, car registrations, medical records and more. Once recorded, documents become digital proof, available – for example – for trusted use in legal battles. Printing and tracking costs decrease and smart contracts can automate actions when conditions are met. For example, a digital driver’s license can notify its owner of expiration, or simply auto-renew by triggering a debit off the owner’s account.
  1. Payments
There is room for (and talk of) the use of blockchain and cryptocurrencies in place of existing financial institutions. But blockchain technologies also have immense potential to eliminate fraud and tax avoidance, thanks to built-in transparency and trust protocols. Social benefits, grants, compensation, tax returns and inter-government payments can be automated, recorded and possibly even accessed by the public.
  1. Accountability
On that note, blockchain makes ultimate accountability in all spheres possible. Financial movements can be permanently recorded and traced, or voting results can be updated on a public network, keeping voters in the loop. Each time a change is made to a law recorded on the ledger, the public has full visibility. Public services can be delivered with ease to a trusting population, thanks to this layer of transparency.
  1. Automation
The processes of filing applications, making and receiving payments or benefits, getting visas and transferring permissions or titles can all be streamlined beyond what was previously possible – making blockchain particularly beneficial to developing markets whose existing infrastructure cannot otherwise accommodate such radical change. As with most innovations, the possible use cases of technological advancements like Blockchain are often only discovered much later in their lifecycle. Preconceived notions should not hinder the exploration of evolutionary innovations in new and unique contexts. The true power of technology is only truly realised when it evolves outside its original borders. Only when we colour outside our existing lines can we truly evolve. We believe that Blockchain has the potential to truly evolve the way our governments, organisations and society functions. [post_title] => Five ways blockchain will transform the public sector [post_excerpt] => Making paper trails redundant. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27165 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-19 10:50:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-19 00:50:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27165 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27154 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-18 10:46:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-18 00:46:53 [post_content] =>     Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim. Pic: YouTube. A new Australian Public Service (APS) Privacy Code covering the data citizens give to the federal government will be in place by 2018, prompted by the outcry over Centrelink robo debt and data matching. Today’s [Thursday] joint announcement by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) said the two would work collaboratively on the new code, which aims to ensure a balance between data protection and privacy and data innovation and its use by Commonwealth agencies. Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim told the Senate Community Affairs References Committee, which is conducting a public hearing into the Department of Human Services’ Online Compliance Initiative (OCI) in Canberra today, that the code would cover how data should be ‘respected, protected’ and regulated into the future, consistent with community expectations. Mr Pilgrim said the code would be binding and failure to comply would be a breach of the Privacy Act. The current guidelines are voluntary. He said penalties could range from asking for a written undertaking that an organisation would change their processes and comply - ultimately enforceable in the federal court – to civil penalties in a federal court which could reach up to $1.8 million for serious breaches. The OAIC will lead on the code’s development due to the organisation’s specific privacy expertise and the code will be implemented APS-wide. All agencies will also need to have a privacy management plan in place under the new code. The Department and the OAIC said the code was vital to maximise the value of publicly held data. “The code can therefore be a catalyst to transform the Australian government’s data performance – increasing both internal capacity and external transparency to stakeholders,” they said. Commissioner Pilgrim said the code would ‘support government data innovation that integrates personal data protection’ while giving the APS the ‘skills and capabilities’ it needed to manage personal information. A storm over data privacy occurred after Fairfax published a piece by blogger Andie Fox in February which was highly critical of the DHS’ automated debt recovery drive, designed to claw back more than $1.5 billion over five years. In her article, Ms Fox claimed she had been pursued and ‘terrorised’ by DHS for money she did not owe after a relationship breakdown. In response, DHS disputed Ms Fox’s account and leaked some of her personal information to a journalist, including her Family Tax Benefit claims and relationship details. The government later defended itself arguing that it was allowed to release personal information to correct inaccurate public statements under social security legislation. Federal Labor MP Linda Burney later referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police but the AFP concluded that Human Services Minister Alan Tudge had not breached Commonwealth legislation. The government said the new privacy code would be developed in close collaboration with the APS and data stakeholders and it would apply to all Australian Government entities subject to the Australian Privacy Act 1988.   [post_title] => New APS privacy code on the back of Centrelink robo debt [post_excerpt] => Penalties of up to $1.8m for serious breaches. 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  By Mark Say, Managing Editor UKAuthority.com This story first appeared in UKAuthority.com and appears here by kind permission of the author.    Rob Whiteman, chief executive of the UK's Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy talks about the financial challenge in spending on digital transformation – along with the integration of health and social care Pic: CIPFA Rob Whiteman spends a lot of time thinking about the financial dilemmas facing local government, and there is a major one around digital transformation. Almost everyone agrees it is a necessity, but it comes with a big price tag, and with councils’ budgets already cut to the bone it is a tough call to make a case for heavy investment on which the return is likely to be years away. As chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA), Whiteman has a day-to-day preoccupation with local authorities’ bottom line. It is not a direct responsibility, but as the professional body for officials at the sharp end it plays a significant part in honing the thinking. He recites the basics of local government’s current difficulties: spending down by approximately 40% since 2010, demands on social care that have led to a 5% increase for children’s services and a 10% limit on the cuts for adults, and much sharper reductions in areas such as regulatory services and running libraries.

Creating space

“The problem is that creating the space and investment for digital transformation is difficult when you don’t have the money to keep the show on the road today,” he says. “Everybody can see that, particularly with Generations X and Y, people want to access services in a different way. They want 24/7 services and want to be able to transact on the web. “That needs investment, and local government has many strengths, but it’s hard for it to make system investment when it’s more than 400 organisations. You need an organisation like DCLG (the Department for Communities and Local Government) to be able to pump prime. “If local government were not 400 institutions it could probably not have borne the cuts it has, but if you want to invest in something different, while the bigger authorities can find the space to do this, it’s very difficult for a small council with big budget constraints. Ideally it should mean working with other authorities to invest in it together.” The joint investment is not happening on any large scale and, since the Government Spending Review of 2015 provided nothing to support local digital efforts, there is no pump priming from the centre. There are organisations such as CIPFA, the Local Government Association and public sector IT association Socitm to support some coordination and shared effort. Whiteman says they can provide help, not just in arguing the case for local authorities but in challenging how they do things, pressing for more economies of scale and to avoid duplication. But councils still have to spend on investment, and Whiteman provides some advice on how they can make the process more manageable.

Look for good practice

“Number one, somebody has almost certainly already done it,” he says. “Actively go out and look for good practice and find councils that have already done something you’re thinking of doing. “Secondly, if you’re going to do it, do it well, and make sure you have the right capability. The best business cases are those that may cost a bit more than people are comfortable with but give greater assurance they will be delivered because you have the capability and capacity to deliver them well. “And try to do it with other people. Find other councils to work with, or partners that have already done something like this.” He emphasises the importance of being very clear over the expected benefits – “the more work on benefits realisation the better” – and the linking of digital and service strategies. But he suggests that councils will struggle if they do not take a more collective approach. “I think local government is good at implementation; it has been able to make 40% cuts because it has implementation skills. The weakness is that implementation tends to be for individual organisations rather than at scale, and if it were done at scale the benefits realisation probably could have been ever greater.”

STP ups and downs

Things get even more demanding when you look at the need for integrating services. The Government has made this a big issue for health and social care with the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) for England, a move for which he sees up and down sides. On the one hand, he describes them as “a really difficult brand”, not helped by many having been drawn up with little or no public consultation; on the other, they could foster a better working relationship between councils and the NHS. They have different skills sets and financial settlements, with councils being accountable to local electorates while NHS bodies report to the secretary of state for health. This fosters different outlooks, but “these are so different that if they work well with each other the prize can be enormous”. He says the test will be in whether they develop the right attitude to working together: “I think STPS should be organisations where they want to work with each other and don’t feel they are being strong armed. They are an organisational development exercise to build trust for people to get used to transacting with each other. “The test of the good ones will be that, after they are abolished, people will want to carry on working that way because they have been successful.”

Sense of place

This will depend partly on how strongly the participants feel a sense of common purpose based on their communities – a “sense of place” as Whiteman puts it – and a willingness to break out of their organisational silos. This is not easy to achieve, as the breakdown of the Total Place policy in the late 2000s demonstrates. But he is hopeful that the move to city devolution, with Manchester at the vanguard, will provide momentum. “My experience is that a sense of place can act as the biggest drive for collaboration of anything that I’ve seen. What I admire about Manchester is that there’s a sense of place, in that people think they are not supporting the public interest as they should if they stick by the present organisational boundaries and siloes. “A sense of understanding the issues of a community and feeling a passion to do something about it is the most powerful.” His other big hope in the technology field is that government makes more of data analytics. He says it could be valuable to local government in plenty of activities, especially social care and public health. “That type of capability has incredible opportunity in other policy areas - identifying children likely to be at risk, people who are likely to be vulnerable, people who are likely to have poor health. There are very real information management and ethical issues about the degree to which the state makes use of data, and we are going to have to work that through with other policy areas, but data analytics could inform on a whole range of policy issues.” Through all this Whiteman conveys a combination of acknowledging the starkness of the financial situation facing local government, and an optimism that it has the qualities to find some long term solutions. There is no doubt that digital is going to play a big part.  
[post_title] => Facing local government’s digital dilemma [post_excerpt] => Tough spending choices for UK local councils. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27122 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-16 10:00:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-16 00:00:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27122 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27117 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-15 17:25:03 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-15 07:25:03 [post_content] =>     NSW government can learn from other governments internationally about how to develop and promote a culture of open data and data sharing, says a report commissioned by the Information and Privacy Commission of NSW and the NSW Open Data Advocate. The UNSW Law report, Conditions Enabling Open Data and Promoting a Data Sharing Culture 2017, released yesterday (Monday) looks at the progress of five other countries – the UK, France, Canada, the US and New Zealand – towards recognising the importance of open data and doing something about it. All five are considered to be leading the way globally. Open data is data that can be freely used, shared and built-on by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose and offered free or at minimal cost. The data can come from a wide range of sources, including government departments and agencies; universities; corporations; charities; NGOs; groups and individuals and it can encompass statistics, maps, scientific research, reports, and weather amongst other things.   To qualify as open, data should be available in bulk and able to be processed by a computer. The UNSW Law report identified six main drivers for achieving open data and went on to show how the NSW government could use international best practice and put more emphasis on open data. These drivers included:
  • Leadership and public support by government, ministers and agency heads to create processes and a culture that encourage the release and sharing of data
  • Legislation that sets out the rights and responsibilities governing access, sharing and protection of data for those who want the data and those who keep it. For example, the UK, US and France have mandated that data be open by default and be machine-readable and in in a standardised format
  • Policies to guide agency and staff decisions and priorities around open data and privacy, data security and collaboration
  • Regulations to provide certainty and to set expectations and obligations, as well as providing oversight and punishing non-compliance. These should balance rights to data with concerns over privacy and anticipating risk
  • Promoting culture and collaboration that supports open data within government and with the public, for example co-operation between agencies and between international, national and sub-national levels of government
  • Developing strategies to make data open, including funding open data, sharing success stories and engaging communities and individuals, for example the UKAuthority.
NSW Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Tydd said the independent research report was the first of its kind in Australia. “The research demonstrates how open data is being achieved internationally through an examination of leading jurisdictions,” Ms Tydd said. “The research acknowledges NSW’s progress and, importantly, offers new and significant insights to inform our approach to opening up valuable NSW data resources.”   She said opening data was “an impactful, contemporary approach to opening government” that promoted “effective and accountable government and enables meaningful public participation”. A recent IPC community attitudes survey found strong support for Open Data in NSW with 83 per cent of people agreeing that de-identified information should inform government service planning and delivery. The report provides suggestions on how NSW can move further towards open government and open data. These include recommendations to:
  • Publish a complete catalogue of all datasets, including restricted datasets
  • Moving from a legislative framework authorising data release to one that proactively encourages it
  • Mandating departments to open specific datasets and set quotas for datasets to force collaboration
  • Identify which datasets are important economic drivers for growth in regional areas and prioritise these
  • Mandate departments to create machine-readable standardised formats for datasets to allow analytics and linked data applications
  • Explicitly fund departments opening up high-value datasets in machine-readable format
  • Adopt an anticipatory regulatory approach that promotes open data but ensures ongoing evaluation and assessment of security and privacy risks
  • Develop in-depth guidelines on anonymisation and de-identification
  • Identify workforce skills/knowledge gaps and opportunities to work with local government and other government agencies
  • Adopt an incubator model where an open data company is embedded with an agency to co-develop ideas and applications on models, or engage with entities such as Code for Australia to bring in ideas and expertise
The research underpinning the report was guided by a steering committee comprising NSW agencies and experts, including the Data Analytics Centre, Department of Premier and Cabinet, Data61, the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation and the Department of Justice.  [post_title] => Global open data leaders give NSW lessons in data sharing [post_excerpt] => Promoting a culture of open data and data sharing. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27117 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-16 11:54:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-16 01:54:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27117 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27086 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-09 11:31:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-09 01:31:40 [post_content] =>   By Anthony Wallace Australia and New Zealand have been named among the top nations in providing open government data. The latest results of an global open data index reveal that Australia is ranked equal first out of 94 countries. Tying equal first with Australia was the nation of Taiwan. New Zealand also had a strong result, beating the Unites States and Brazil to take out number seven on the index. The Global Open Data Index (GODI) aims to provide the most comprehensive snapshot available of the state of open government data publication. Published by The Open Knowledge Institute annually, GODI ranks how well nations publish open government data against 14 key categories. Australia scored full marks in three of the spatial categories including, “Administration Boundaries,” “National Maps,” and “Locations.” The datasets where Australia did not perform well include “Land Ownership,” “Government Spending” and “Water Quality.” Australia’s Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, Angus Taylor, said the GODI results confirmed the Australian Government was on track with its commitment to making data more openly available. Read more here.   This story first appeared in Spatial Source.  [post_title] => Australia leads the world in open govt data [post_excerpt] => Ties with Taiwan. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27086 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-09 11:31:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-09 01:31:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27086 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27429 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-19 12:45:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-19 02:45:11 [post_content] =>   A senior public official from Victoria’s Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFB) executed an elaborate deception to employ her two sons by encouraging them to change their names and falsify their CVs. The Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass’ report into the scam, released today [Monday], uncovered a case of naked nepotism within the metropolitan Melbourne fire service that she said had cost the public more than $400,000 over a number of years.     The MFB’s Chief Information Officer, Mary Powderly-Hughes, hid her relationship to her son, David Hewson, when she hired him in July 2014. She employed her other son, Barry Robinson, two years’ later to backfill Mr Hewson’s position after she handing him a permanent role as the Manager of IT Administration, Finance, Procurement and Projects. Leaving nothing to chance, Ms Powderly-Hughes typed her sons CVs, faked their employment history and told them the interview questions beforehand. She also pretended to carry out reference checks after interviewing them. To make doubly sure her second son got over the line for a procurement manager role, Mrs Powderly-Hughes ‘interviewed’ Mr Robinson at her home and drilled him in IT finance packages, despite him being woefully underqualified for the role and ordinarily working as a motor mechanic. The three were sprung after a whistleblower reported their concerns to the Ombudsman. “I have my suspicions that Mary Powderly Hughes has hired her son, or family member, or someone with a very close connection and I think she’s manipulated things to make sure he got the job when it became permanent. When he was a contractor he quickly got a rate rise, which is quite rare for most people,” the manager told Ms Glass. The Ombudsman investigated the tangled web the trio had weaved using social media and official records. Officers matched Mr Hewson’s mobile phone number listed on his MFB emails with his role as Treasurer of the local cricket club. They then matched his personal email address with a Facebook account for a Mr Hughes, which revealed the suburb he lived in, the same as the cricket club. The Victorian Electoral roll listed a David Patrick Powderly-Hughes in the same suburb. Mr Hughes Facebook account also showed he had previously worked for Parks Victoria, which Mrs Powderly Hughes had also listed in her past jobs on her LinkedIn account. A search of the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages showed that the men were her sons and had both changed their names a few weeks’ before starting work at MFB. Ms Glass said the case was an egregious example of self-interest. “Some cases I have investigated over the years seem so unlikely you could not make them up. Except, as in this case, they did,” Ms Glass said. “The facts of the case are that a senior public official at the Metropolitan Fire Brigade hired her son, not declaring the relationship, having falsified his CV and coached him prior to interview, three weeks after he changed his name to conceal the relationship.  “After giving him a pay rise and moving him into a permanent role, she then hired her second son, also falsifying his CV and “interviewing” him at her home after he, too, had changed his name to conceal the relationship,” said Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass.  Ms Glass said she had rarely come across such blatant and calculated behaviour. “Often the cases are minor, although wrong. Not this time, this was a case of deception where the family nest was feathered, plain and simple.”  Unsurprisingly, all three have left MFB since the investigation blew up. Ms Powderly-Hughes resigned on the day of her interview with the Ombudsman and both of her sons have since been sacked. Ms Glass said cases were often difficult to detect and she underlined the importance of colleagues raising the alarm if they saw anything suspicious going on at work. “The case also serves as a salient reminder of the importance of disclosers acting on suspicion that something is awry in their workplace. More often than not, as the saying goes, where there is smoke, there is fire.” She said that while the agency could not be held responsible for the deception perpetrated upon it in this case it needed to beef up its conflict of interest policies. [post_title] => Senior public official secretly employs sons after name changes and doctored CVs [post_excerpt] => Pretend reference checks and pay rises for the family. 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