Council IS staff vote to outsource

When local authorities contract out certain services, it often means redundancies, animosity and general disquiet. However, that's not the case with the Wanganui District Council's move to contract out its information support functions. That's because the idea came from the IS department in the first place.

When local authorities contract out certain services, it often means redundancies, animosity and general disquiet. However, that’s not the case with the Wanganui District Council’s move to contract out its information support functions.

That’s because the idea came from the IS department in the first place.

The IS staff and the council’s main software supplier, Collier Knyn and Associates of Australia, came up with a joint proposal to council last year, saying they wanted to establish a business based in Wanganui, providing the council with all the old functions, but also market a new product in New Zealand.

The council runs Collier’s software package, which is called LOGIS (Local Government Information System), covers all areas of local government including things like finance, property and rating.

About 55 sites in Australia use the package, along with the council, River City Contractors and Wanganui Gas (owned largely by the council) in Wanganui. The new company will provide a stronger New Zealand presence in marketing the product.

Council information manager Nygllhew Morris says information management is being retained by the council. It will be things like maintenance of servers, staff training, back-ups and the helpdesk that are contracted to the new company.

He says the move means he can buy in the level of service he needs. At present he only needs about “half of each person” in the IS department in any one year.

“And for the individuals...it opens up programming opportunities to a much broader market through Australia and Asia, where they’ll be doing project work back to the parent company.”

Morris says it also means the city gets a new business, the IS people gain greater expertise which they will use in doing work for the council, and the council doesn’t have the hassle of redundancies.

“The new company has undertaken to have employment contracts similar to council’s.”

The new company, likely to be called Data Innovations, has a two-year contract with the council initially, but after that it will be fully contested.

IS manager Steve Hanna says four employees and a contractor are moving over to the new company. One employee, the primary NT and telephony integration expert, is staying with council because he is used 80 to 90% of the time.

Hanna says some staff from the Perth office will spend time in the New Zealand office initially. Other New Zealand offices could be opened.

“But the attractive thing for the people here at the moment, is that most of us are living in Wanganui as a lifestyle choice. It’s good to be able to re-enter the industry and expose ourselves to a much wider range of interesting work beyond the local government model, but still live in Wanganui.”

He says the company will use the Wanganui District Council as a demonstration site. The council has had LOGIS for seven years and it has undergone a lot of development to reflect New Zealand conditions such as GST, and changes to building and environmental legislation.

Hanna says the company will view itself as the New Zealand branch of Collier Knyn and Associates.

“The main aim really is for us to expand the New Zealand client base of the LOGIS product.

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