By Julian Bajkowski
Victoria’s Education Minister, Martin Dixon, has moved swiftly to distance the Baillieu government from the Ultranet education software debacle after the state’s Auditor released a series of damning findings into the $180 million Oracle based project.
At least three times over budget and with little realistic prospect of being salvaged, Mr Dixon said the project had failed to work from the beginning when it was commissioned following an election promise under the previous Labor government.
“Management of the Ultranet has been a disaster from day one,” Mr Dixon said.
“I have had strong reservations about the Ultranet since coming to office and have pursued concerns about the Ultranet with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) since coming to office,” Mr Dixon said.
Mr Dixon branded the four per cent take-up rate as “woeful” but said that “given the massive amount of money that’s been sunk into this” that he had sought “detailed advice on what, if anything, can be done to salvage any useful elements of it.”
One of those useful elements is likely to be taxpayers’ money that has been spent on project outcomes that are either highly questionable or non-existent.
However the Education minister is so far keeping his legal powder dry in terms of the Auditor’s recommendation for an urgent review of investments with a specific focus on “assessing whether the contractor has delivered all functionality as required by the contract and what action, if any, needs to be taken to enforce the state’s rights.”
While the DEECD has accepted all of the Auditors recommendations, a significant question remains as to why the project was able to drift for six years chewing through money without being pulled up in so-called “Gateway” reviews.
Mr Dixon said that Ultranet’s cost blowout from $60 million to $180 million constituted a “budget overrun that could have paid for 12 new primary schools.”
More bad news for the government is expected following the completion of investigations into probity issues surrounding the procurement of the system.
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