Tuesday, 21 August 2018
Department of Human Services; Order for the Production of Documents
(a) the Senate notes that:
(i) since 2013, the Department of Human Services (the Department) has had a program underway to upgrade its child support system ('Cuba')—the approved budget was $102 million,
(ii) during the 2015-16 financial year, the total budget was exhausted without the project being completed,
(iv) in response to questions taken on notice during the inquiry of the Finance and Public Administration References Committee into digital delivery of government services, the Department advised that it was unable to determine how much had been spent on the project,
(v) in response to questions asked at Budget estimates, the Department could provide no indication of the total spend on the project or provide a target completion date, and
(vi) in response to a freedom of information request—Department Reference LEX 37339—the Department indicated there are 49 documents in existence that fit within the description of 'final versions of all formal executive briefings submitted to the Secretary, Department of Human Services between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018, where the topic of one or all of the executive briefings cover the cost, resource allocation and/or progress of the Child Support System redesign Programme'; and
(b) there be laid on the table by the Minister representing the Minister for Human Services, by no later than 10 am on 10 September 2018, the 49 documents identified by the Department in FOI Department Reference LEX 37339.
The Department of Human Services is continuing to modernise child support business practices and ICT platforms. The government is committed to investing in technology solutions that improve the way that government interacts with Australians. We will continue to develop, enhance and modernise the child support ICT system to ensure we have services fit for future need. Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, Senator Patrick is able to enact his right to a review of the decision through a number of avenues that were listed in the decision letter he references in his motion. The parliament is not the appropriate forum to address freedom of information matters.
The Centre Alliance has no objection to improvements being made to the child support system. This motion stems, actually, from questions asked in Senate estimates asking for the cost. In fact, it goes back even further, to a Senate inquiry into digital services, where the department were simply unable to answer a question on how much they've spent on the system. I don't mind an upgrade, but it's irresponsible to not understand what resources have been assigned, how much money has been spent and when the system will be completed. In asking questions, and indeed in writing to the minister and getting no response, I've had to ask for an order for production of documents so that I can then inspect the project material myself. So I urge the Senate to support this motion.