Councils defect from shared platform plan

Decisions expected soon from councils on joint information system development

The number of regional councils willing to sign up to a development plan for a shared regional council information system appears to be shrinking.

A decision on a proposed integrated regional information system for local government (IRIS) is still some weeks away.

However, of the original group of 10 principal councils, Auckland Regional Council and Wellington Regional Council have indicated they don’t wish to participate further.

Otago and Environment Canterbury have been offered the opportunity to re-consider participation.

A meeting early this month was supposed to define where the project was at, following a feasibility study into scope, cost, timetable and governance. Councils were then to be asked to commit to development, indicate if they were a possible customer paying a licence fee to use the application (to be developed), or whether they would withdraw.

Just three councils are believed to have committed to the project: Northland, Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) and Environment Waikato.

Following this month’s meeting, project director Derek Postlewaight said he couldn’t comment in any detail because of “probity of process”.

“A number of councils came together to see if it were feasible to work together,” he said. “A number believe a collaborative process could be beneficial.”

Each council makes its own decision.

A July report on the project, to Environment Waikato’s finance and audit comittee, says in early 2006, a consortium of regional councils that had been collaborating on common applications were advised that the toolset used for development was reaching its end of life. Subsequently, Environment Waikato was unable to find a packaged replacement for its administrative information system

In early 2007, various regional councils raised the idea of collaborating on the development of common software to support administration. The idea was promoted among the IT managers, the CFOs and the CEOs, receiving varying degrees of support.

In October 2007, all the IT managers and CFOs of all 12 Regional Councils met at Environment Canterbury in Christchurch and discussed alternatives for joint development or procurement. Environment Waikato proposed that a “coalition of the willing” should seek proposals for development of common systems. Ten councils agreed to participate in a request for proposal process.

Otago and Environment Canterbury chose not to participate.

At the end of that process, each council would then make an individual decision to participate further or not.

The report says all 10 remaining councils continued to participate, with the majority of the leadership coming from Northland and Waikato.

Sixteen conforming responses were received to the RFP and five vendors were selected to make presentations. One then withdrew while the other four presented in early March. Three vendors were then short-listed. Datacom was selected as the potential partner.

“The group of 10 councils is shrinking,” the report notes. “Seven councils have indicated they wish to participate further, and may be potential funders of the development.”

It says, assuming the feasibility study is acceptable, a minimum of three councils will commit to the development.

“Northland, Horizons and Environment Waikato all believe that this is the best way forward for our organisations. We may also get one or two more of the councils as principals. The others are likely to wait until they are required to make a decision.”

Postlewaight says a decision should be reached “in three to four weeks”.

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