Councils avoid ban on buying from IBM

By Julian Bajkowski

The Queensland government’s unprecendented ban on giving IBM new business after the $1.2 billion Health Payroll software disaster will not be imposed on local governments and councils, the minister responsible for the sector had confirmed.

Queensland Local Government Minister David Crisafulli has told Government News that councils will not be hit by the procurement blackban as agencies across the state assess what effect the government’s punitive action will have on their future technology architecture and development plans.

“We won’t be imposing a ban on local government, but councils may be wary about using IBM after how it failed in Queensland,” Mr Crisafulli said.

The president of the Local Government Association of Queensland, Margaret de Wit, has backed the minister’s position and told Government News that the state government ban would not have any effect on councils.

While exemption of local government from the state-wide ban on IBM will come as a relief to the besieged vendor, it still faces a monumental task in rebuilding its reputation in the public service across the nation following its part in the massive software bungle.

IBM has been heavily pushing its grand vision of smart cities, innovation and connected infrastructure as part of its sell to communities and the public sector through high-profile advertising in mainstream media in an attempt to re-position itself as an industry leader rather than a fading giant.

But it is facing stiff challenges at the grass roots of communities and public administration where the company’s ideas on how to connect people are not always going to plan.

At the recent Wired for Wonder conference in Sydney, influential British technologist Ben Hammersley cautioned that the application of infrastructure technology in the form of ‘Smarter Cities’ in Scandinavia was encountering social resistance.

Mr Hammersley said the views of what an IBM engineer from Texas thought was the best way – the quickest route from one point to another in a car   to get to work were different from those actually living in the smarted-up Scandinavian city – who often preferred bicycles.

A major point of irritation in Queensland over IBM is the fact that it very successfully managed to extricate itself from any legal liability over the payroll bungle that blew its original budget by more than 15,000 per cent.

So far IBM is bitterly maintaining that role in the project disaster described by a special Commission of Inquiry as possibly the worst failures in public administration the country had ever seen was limited.

"Reports that suggest that IBM is accountable for the $1.2 billion costs to remedy the Queensland Health payroll system are completely incorrect. IBM's fees of $25.7 million accounted for less than 2 per cent of the total amount. The balance of costs is made up of work streams which were never part of IBM's scope."

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