Department paid lawyers $54k to dump Unisys

Builders will pay the bill, says MP

The Department of Building and Housing paid over $54,000 to law firm Kensington Swan for legal services on its options to end a contract with Unisys to build the failed licensed building practitioners computer system.

That sum was paid after it had already paid $38,392 to Hewlett-Packard to "evaluate the Unisys revised proposal" for the system build.

A report (pdf) from the Finance and Expenditure comittee on the project says: "The cancelled project cost $653,000 and early termination was mutually agreed between the department and the contractor. The department admits it made mistakes in management of the project. It states that the project had too short a timeframe, and the department recognises that a simpler project might have been more effective. IT systems and operational policies contributed to the failure of the project."

The spending figures were provided in answers to Parliamentary questions last month and provide a further insight into the true cost of the licensed building practitioners computer system project failure.

Consultancy spending effectively doubles the cost of the project, the figures reveal. Payments to system provider Unisys totalled $653,348 while payments to a series of other consultants to the project totalled $646,988. National's housing spokesman, Phil Heatley, asked the questions in February and released the results last week. “I issued a statement in November pointing out that taxpayers had spent $653,000 on a computer system that never eventuated," his statement says. "It now turns out a further $645,000 was spent on consultants, a figure that was not initially volunteered by the Department of Building and Housing. "The computerised registration system was a feature of Labour's cumbersome building legislation. It was to be worth a total of $1.2 million and be operational by November 1. The idea has been dumped," he says.

Heatley says two thirds of the way through the project, the department decided there were too many problems with it and the plug was pulled. He says builders" have been left "more than $1.2 million out of pocket".

"In effect, the money spent on this abandoned project came from the pockets of builders, who've faced huge levy increases because of new building laws," he says. The department has since built a system in-house for just over $10,000.

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