‘Shocking waste’: Scrapped Qld Health project investigated

A SCRAPPED multimillion-dollar Queensland Health IT project, described by the State Opposition as "a shocking waste of taxpayers' money", is in the sights of Auditor-General Brendan Worrall as he starts investigations for a report into public sector digital projects and the lessons that can be learned from them.

Queensland Health last month quietly announced an end to a 10-year, $68.5 million project to replace Pathology Queensland's ageing laboratory information system, blaming COVID-19.

News of the project's termination was buried in the middle of a media release about the new virus, with the department citing the need to "free up resources".

Queensland Opposition health spokeswoman Ros Bates. Photo: Dan Peled, AAP.
Queensland Opposition health spokeswoman Ros Bates. Photo: Dan Peled, AAP.

But The Courier-Mail understands Pathology Queensland staff were pulled from the project last year, well before the coronavirus pandemic.

The project with US software company Sunquest Information Systems, announced in 2018, was to replace Queensland Health's AUSLAB laboratory information system.

After The Courier-Mail broke the story about the latest Queensland Health IT failure, Opposition health spokeswoman Ros Bates wrote to Mr Worrall requesting a performance audit of the project, probing "why it was scrapped, whether it could have been renegotiated and delayed and a justification of the waste of tens of millions of taxpayers' dollars".

Auditor-General Brendan Worrall
Auditor-General Brendan Worrall

Mr Worrall has written back to Ms Bates promising to prepare "insights reports" to parliament covering significant information and communications technology projects.

"As part of scoping my first report I am considering a number of projects … including the Laboratory Information System Project," he wrote.

"The purpose of these reports will be to develop insights and to share learnings from significant projects across the public sector. We believe it is important that lessons are learned from past projects."

In Mr Worrall's report on the failed State Penalties Enforcement Registry ICT project, tabled in state parliament in February, he wrote: "There is a need for greater disclosure by agencies when ICT projects are cancelled.

"There is also a need for greater oversight of ICT projects by the newly created Office of Assurance and Investment (formerly part of the Queensland Government Chief Information Office) to help mitigate the risks of project delivery."

Ms Bates said she welcomed Mr Worrall's investigation into the Laboratory Information System Project.

"Taxpayers deserve to have their money treated with respect and an explanation why this project was quietly scrapped, wasting millions," she said.

"It's clear that Labor and health IT projects just don't mix and they still haven't learned their lesson since the health payroll debacle."

In a statement, Queensland Health said the finalised contract close-out with Sunquest was being settled.

"But while more than half of the project's $64 million budget has been expended, Queensland Health will retain much of the work developed so far, and a portion of the overall budget will be saved and available to reinvest," the department said.

Mr Worrall hopes to table the ICT report in the first quarter of next financial year.

Originally published as 'Shocking waste': Scrapped IT project under microscope

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