Threat of $10m blowout hits digital archive

Work on the Government's new digital archive system for official documents has been stopped after officials warned it was headed for a $10 million budget blowout.

Internal Affairs chief executive Colin McDonald - the Government's overall IT services boss - and his officials were grilled on the project by MPs on the government administration committee yesterday.

After the hearing, Labour's Grant Robertson said the $12 million digital archive programme begun two years ago, which receives, stores and makes available documents from across the public sector, was now "in chaos".

A leaked official "health check" on the programme revealed a projected $10 million cost overrun and a delay of up to five years to complete it.

It found 39 of 78 performance or progress measures were "red" or unsatisfactory. While $7 million had been spent so far, "the programme is forecasting both a financial blowout and schedule slippage at this stage", officials noted.

"This is a debacle and is costing the taxpayers of New Zealand dearly," Mr Robertson said.

Officials confirmed that Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain had been briefed throughout the programme and Mr Robertson asked why he had allowed the programme "to continue with such a lack of focus and budgetary discipline".

"A review of the programme indicates failure on almost every level. A large number of staff have resigned and morale is low because of uncertainty over its future. There has been poor communication, unsatisfactory documentation, loosely directed resources and contractors who have no formal reporting process," Mr Robertson said.

Mr Tremain yesterday confirmed he had the project stopped after being briefed on its problems.

Mr McDonald said the world's governments were grappling with the huge problem of how to cope with "a massive influx of digital information". "We're taking a look at what we should do next."

- Adam Bennett of the New Zealand Herald

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