State Services sets up project Office to beat Y2K problems

The State Services Commission (SSC) has revamped its approach to Y2K in an effort to join the battle before time runs out. The Y2K Project Office has been established by deputy commissioner Ross Tanner to better assess government departments' Y2K projects and to provide some motivation to those departments considered to be key.

The State Services Commission (SSC) has revamped its approach to Y2K in an effort to join the battle before time runs out.

The Y2K Project Office has been established by deputy commissioner Ross Tanner to better assess government departments’ Y2K projects and to provide some motivation to those departments considered to be key.

“It’s an extension of our existing programme. I discovered I was spending a lot of my time on Y2K when I’ve got a number of other tasks that need attending to as well.”

Heading the project office will be John Belgrave, most recently director of the Electricity Supply Association. Belgrave sees his role as a “value-added one” rather than a dictatorial one.

“We’ll be looking to encourage goodwill and an open approach between the departments and government.” The role is similar to that of the General Accounting Office in the US which is currently auditing US Federal departments.

The Project Office has already assessed its members for compliance and will focus on 58 vital organisations that include hospitals, emergency services, Treasury, and Work and Income New Zealand among others.

Belgrave believes the level of co-operation he has received from these key departments has been good to date, and he doesn’t think that will change in the foreseeable future.

“Some are more advanced from others, obviously, but I would expect agencies would maintain this open relationship with us.”

Belgrave does carry a large stick for those recalcitrant departments, although he is loath to use it.

“There is provision in the State Sector Act that does enable, in certain situations, the State Services Commissioner to direct agencies. But that’s an authority I would only seek to use as a last resort.” Belgrave says if you have to quote statutes to business managers, you have probably failed in your mission.

“It’s in everybody’s interest to get this as right as we can.”

While company directors face the issue of the Companies Act, and its attendant “directors and officers liability”, Belgrave says company law isn’t a factor for heads of crown entities.

“Departmental heads are required to sign performance agreements with the SSC and one would expect that between them, their minister and their performance agreement this would be covered.”

The Project Office reports directly to Y2K minister, Maurice Williamson, and will be working alongside the Y2K Readiness Commission.

“Our relationship with the Readiness Commission will be very close. They see us as one of the major sector groups - electricity is one and local government is another - and I would expect the Readiness Commission to be as rigorous with us as it is with other sectors.”

The Office’s first report to the minister will be handed over this week, and he will then discuss it with those ministers responsible for the departments discussed. A public release date has not yet been announced.

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