SSC takes enquiry into GSN independent

Further information leads to rethink of original plans

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie has decided an internal review of contracts for the Government Shared Network (GSN) project is not enough.

In a statement released this evening, Rennie says that while the SSC had begun an internal review of contractual and performance issues around the management of contracts with consultancy Voco, which consulted on the troubled GSN, the SSC will now appoint an independent enquirer.

"I have since received further information that has confirmed to me the critical importance of conducting this process in a transparent and fair manner, particularly around how contracts were managed and how perceived and potential conflicts of interest were handled," Rennie says.

"Accordingly, I will be engaging an independent inquirer to conduct the review of the SSC's performance in these matters.

"Once I have retained independent advice I will release the terms of reference for the review. As I said last week, this will be a transparent process and I will publish my findings and copies of any independent reports as soon as I am in a position to do so."

This morning, The Dominion Post reported contracts with Voco were being investigated after a whistleblower made allegations that Voco was paid too much and that the contracts were extended without being put back out to tender.

The paper reported the whistleblower as saying the finance manager of the commission's ICT branch, David Eagles, tried to end the SSC's relationship with Voco on four occasions, but was prevented from doing so.

The commission says it paid Voco $8.2 million since 2004. Voco's co-owner and director, Michael Foley, told the Dominion Post Voco had delivered value for money to the commission.

Computerworld understands there have been complaints that these tailored services were not completed to users’ expectations and that user agencies were essentially provided with an unsophisticated “fat pipe”, as one user expresses it, of raw broadband connectivity.

Of departments using the network questioned, only Archives New Zealand has so far replied and will only say that the GSN is “still providing service”. Asked about rumoured interruptions to service a spokeswoman declined to confirm or deny these had occurred.

In August, PricewaterhouseCoopers was asked to report on future options for the network.

The GSN is, therefore, undergoing two investigations. The general financial viability of the network is also under question, with the likelihood that it will be discontinued or at least drastically reduced after present contracts expire (Computerworld, December 1). It is understood Cabinet will consider a paper on the question at its last meeting of the year, on December 23.

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