How many more failed IT projects is the government concealing?

Government and IT systems.  It’s a big hole that you  just keep pouring money into.

A major government IT project is three years late and nearly $30 million over budget.

The first stage of the Joint Border Management System (JBMS) – merging the computer systems of Customs and the Ministry for Primary Industries – was supposed to be finished by the end of 2012 at a cost of $75.9 million.

Secrecy has shrouded the problems which beset the project, but the Herald can reveal the budget has soared to $104.1 million, and the system is now expected to be operating by the end of next year.

Projected savings of $535 million over 10 years will now take 15 years to achieve according to papers released under the Official Information Act.

Crisis talks were held weekly between the chief executives of the agencies and IBM, the documents show, and high-powered legal advice was obtained from Crown Law and the Chapman Tripp firm.

Ministers of relevant departments, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the State Services Commission were also briefed on the problems with JBMS.

A court case was avoided after 10 months of negotiations.

10 months of basically no progress, and 10 months of reworking the specs, 10 months of increasing the scope.

10 months of justifying more money.

A briefing paper for the Cabinet said the “parties have now agreed to a mutually acceptable arrangement that will ensure … the JBMS is delivered in the most cost-effective way that manages the risks associated with a sizeable information technology project”.

The specific problems with JBMS and the agreement with IBM remain secret because of heavy redactions in the released documents.

But funding for the first stage of the project was lifted from $75.9 million to $89.7 million last year.

The briefings released to the Herald show a request for another $14.4 million was approved this year because of “funding pressure”.

The delays have been blamed on unexpected complications in integrating new and existing systems, which has taken longer than expected to develop and test.

A Customs spokeswoman said the renegotiated agreement with IBM was “commercial in confidence” and remained secret.

Part of the agreement is that IBM is locked in to provide support and “enhancement” of the programme for seven years.

Labour MP David Shearer said the JBMS project was on its way to becoming another Novopay, but the problems had been kept quiet before the election.

“This is nearly $30 million over budget and at least three years late. This is another Government IT project going off the rails.”

There are two problems with large scale IT projects.  They tend to be under estimated, and once started, the scope of the changes and additions causes a run-away condition where project managers continue to chase their tails.

Next, at some point, the blame needs to be apportioned, and they go to court.

More costs, more delays, more changes.


– Jared Savage, NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.