A Victorian Auditor-General's report that claimed lack of a detailed business case had led to project delays and budget blow-outs in Victoria's HealthSMART project has been criticized as being unduly harsh.
The report into the $323 million project, "the most far-reaching ICT change program ever undertaken by the Victorian Public Health System (VPHS)", found the project was already $34.8 million over budget, a figure disputed by the government and Health Department.
And Auditor-General Des Pearson said the project had been let down by the lack of a detailed business case, which in turn led to difficulties attracting skilled staff and in ensuring vendors performed and their contractual obligations.
He said the Department of Human Services needed a concerted focus on outcomes and benefits to ensure the state's investment in process engineering by harnessing technology is realized as planned.
Ovum public sector research director Dr Steve Hodgkinson defended the HealthSMART project team against the claim that it had failed to develop a business case
HealthSMART was announced in 2003 to overhaul mismatched technology running the state's health system and introduce new systems such as electronic prescriptions to improve patient care and combat fraud.
The Auditor-General's report, which found the program was already running two years beyond its extended 2007 completion date and was likely to slip further, concluded HealthSMART still had the potential to fulfil the original vision of a patient-centric model of health-care, supporting public sector health clinicians with knowledge and technology.
But it sheeted part of the blame for the project's woes home to the fact that the original milestones had been too ambitious, forcing frequent revisions as the program proceeded. And it concluded the application with the highest potential benefit — Clinical Systems — is the ICT application most at risk.
It also declared the lack of a detailed business case has proved to be a key planning flaw.
"... the approved 2003 funding submission for HealthSMART is not a substitute for a detailed business case," the report said
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