Ultranet corruption scandal prompts stronger procurement oversight

By David Donaldson

Wednesday April 18, 2018

Victoria’s Department of Education and Training has introduced stronger, more centralised controls over procurement, conflicts of interest and IT following the Ultranet corruption scandal.

A redesign of the department’s committee structure “provides the foundation for good governance, and has resulted in stronger leadership, more efficient and effective decision-making, and greater accountability and transparency,” said DET in its final report to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission on how it is implementing the corruption watchdog’s recommendations in the wake of Operation Dunham.

Operation Dunham was an investigation by IBAC into the Education Department’s failed Ultranet software system, which IBAC found to have been subject to corrupt activity, costing perhaps $240 million for a system that didn’t work.

The department outlined a range of changes it has made to improve integrity, accountability and management.

The role of chief information officer has been created to lead a new information management and technology division and drive improvements to the information management and technology governance framework and processes. A review found Education needed a whole-of-department approach to managing IT.

All procurements above $150,000 for both corporate and schools must now be discussed with the procurements division, and strict rules must be followed throughout the various stages of the procurement process.

In December the department launched a corporate procurement portal, a single stop for employees to access information, resources and support.

“The new operating model incorporates a move from a devolved procurement model to a centre-led model where an expanded team of procurement professionals will lead end-to-end strategic procurement activities on behalf of the department”, says DET.

New resources include refreshed procurement templates to scale the details required in proportion to the value of the purchase and a new, simpler document search tool to help staff easily find and access the templates they require.

“To build capability around these changes, additional training opportunities have been provided, including eLearning modules for corporate staff focusing on procurement and contract management, a refreshed face to face training package and the introduction of a community of practice forum,” says the department.

A new office has been established within DET to develop and introduce a methodology for project, program and portfolio management across the department. This will mean priority projects will “have consistent reporting mechanisms to track progress against timelines, and risk and issue management”. These tools also better equip governance committees to interrogate performance and improve accountability for the delivery of projects, says the department.

The introduction of a centralised, electronic system for declaring and registering conflicts of interest is scheduled for implementation by June 2018.

The existing electronic gifts, benefits and hospitality register for corporate staff will be expanded to include declarations by school staff. Employees who are involved in procuring goods and services, particularly for major projects, will be more likely to declare conflicts of interest and gifts if the use of these registers is embedded in business as usual, the department argues.

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