Govt orders independent review for legislation project

The Public Access to Legislation project, designed to put all acts of parliament, regulations and bills online, is to have an independent technical review, following delays to its implementation.

The Public Access to Legislation (PAL) project, designed to put all acts of parliament, regulations and bills online, is to have an independent technical review, following delays to its implementation.

But Geoff Lawn, the IT head of the implementing body, the Parliamentary Counsel’s Office, says the system does not have what he would call “technical difficulties”.

Rather, says Lawn, as a highly complex and “mission-critical” system, it needs someone to “stand back and take a good look at it, to reassure ourselves that it will be operationally stable, efficient and enhanceable”.

PAL involves “quite a lot of customisation” and the tying together of separate packaged applications for authoring, content management, publishing and ancillary functions.

“You can design a system and not realise how complex it’s going to be in practice,” he says. “Seeing the system we’ve built to date, it was decided that we would have to have an independent technical review.”

The idea of the review, he confirms “came from higher up, as part of the working of the normal government process”. He is referring to the requirement for the State Services Commission and Treasury supervision of any ICT projects which:

  • cost more than $15m,

  • involve more than one department,

  • require more than $7m of capital investment in a year, or

  • expose the government to significant risk.
The PAL project is valued at around $5.6m, but would qualify in the last regard. It would be very serious, says Lawn, for any failures to show up in what will become the government’s authoritative expression of the law of the country.

Terms of reference are currently being drawn up for the independent review, and once these are finished, the search will begin for a suitable expert to do it. Lawn suggests it will not be easy to find someone with an appropriate standard of knowledge and skill in all the pertinent areas.

There are rumours that a dispute between PCO and lead supplier Unisys are adding to PAL’s problems, but these are denied by both sides.

“We aren’t in dispute with Unisys,” says Lawn. “They will be participating in the technical review.”

“The rumours of a dispute are not true,” says a Unisys spokeswoman.

Pending the release of the fully functioning PAL system, unofficial versions of New Zealand Acts and Statutory Regulations are available here, PCO says.

“This website is hosted and maintained by Brookers on behalf of the PCO, and is updated monthly."

Bills introduced into Parliament since the start of 2003, and bills that have progressed to a further stage in the Parliamentary process since then, are available on the Knowledge Basket website.

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Tags public access to legislation

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