The Ministry of Social Policy has been using a number of IT contractors continuously for “a number of years” without them being employed on a regular basis.
Spokesman Tom Bridgman confirms that this is the case but declines to define “a number” any more precisely. Sources suggest that in at least two cases that number is six and seven years respectively.
However, Bridgman says, that does not qualify as truly continuous engagement, since the contractors concerned have worked on a number of different projects over the years of their retention, and/or they worked at some periods individually and at others representing one or another vendor organisation.
The long-term retention of contractors at MoSP was first brought to Computerworld’s notice last month, in the context of a State Services Commission report on highly paid (more than $750 a day) leased consultants and contractors working for government departments in general (see IT pushes up exec leasing rate).
The report records MoSP as engaging two “leased executives” at that time, but it gives no information on the length of time they had been with the ministry. It dealt only with consultants and contractors leased through a third-party agency, not those retained directly.
Bridgman says in an emailed reply that retention of contractors and consultants by MoSP includes “use of highly specialised information technology contractors to support the information systems co-ordination unit (ISCU)" He says these are long-term contracts and reflect the contracting nature of this specialised sector and the skills required for this IT platform, which underpins the benefits payments system.
“In general,” he adds, “the ministry's human resources strategy is to reduce the number of people engaged through contracted arrangements and replace them with permanent staff where appropriate.”