Correspondence School silent on merit in rejected report

Board of Trustees chair Karen Sewell warns Computerworld that Davanti report into IT systems may contain defamatory comments

The NZ Correspondence School (Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu) has declined to comment on whether it followed any of the recommendations in a third of a series of quality assurance reports on its Student Management System (SMS).

Board of Trustees chair Karen Sewell also cautions Computerworld that the report, by Davanti Consulting, in the school’s view “contains comments that are potentially defamatory”.

“Te Kura is obliged to record its concern that you have received a copy of a draft version of the third Davanti report, when the report had been withheld in response to Official Information Act requests,” says a covering note to Sewell’s comments.

“In the view of our Board, it would be unwise for you to seek to rely on or further disseminate that draft report.”

The student management system has been plagued with problems, including false starts to implementation and reported unfriendliness of the user interfaces.

According to Davanti, reporting in August last year, the impact of persisting difficulties at that time ranged from minor irritations for staff to “significant challenges” in carrying out core functions. Some of the core functionality of SMS, the school has acknowledged, is still incomplete.

The report, a paper copy of which Computerworld has obtained from a source outside Te Kura, was rejected last year by the Board of Trustees, which commissioned another report, from KPMG. This was less serious in its criticism than Davanti’s but still not entirely positive.

“A first draft of the [Davanti] report was submitted to the previous Board [of Trustees] before a revised draft was submitted to the new board,” Sewell says.

“Neither board accepted the draft reports or the recommendations. The current board had serious misgivings about the draft reports and the review process undertaken. As such, we will not be commenting on the contents of any of the drafts.”

Computerworld had asked the school whether any of the 19 recommendations made in Davanti’s August 2012 report was considered relevant enough to be worth implementing.

These included establishing an “effective Project Steering Committee” chaired by someone outside Te Kura’s management team.

Davanti also recommended “a specialist project reset team” be contracted to “re-establish” the project - redefining its scope and “prioritising critical functionality and estimating effort and cost to complete”. It also recommended “resetting the current contractual position” with South African supplier Integrated Tertiary Systems (iTS) and considering whether it was appropriate to “complete under the current contract with appropriate variations” or re-contract for the rest of the project. In the latter eventuality “procurement through the use of a closed tender would be the most appropriate approach,” Davanti says.

One recommendation is for “ergonomic furniture and equipment for some staff” to mitigate the effect of longer hours at the workstation implementing SMS.

The report was the third in a series of independent quality assurance (IQA) reviews from Davanti and the only one the School rejected.

“With regard to the two previous IQA reviews by Davanti, those reports (in 2009 and 2010) were accepted by the Board and the recommendations implemented where appropriate,” Sewell says. “I understand that there was regular reporting to the Board on progress against those recommendations.”

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