Caitlin Fitzsimmons Online editor

Caitlin covers social media, marketing and technology and is BRW's social media editor. She has worked as a journalist in Sydney, London and San Francisco, writing for titles including The Guardian and The Australian Financial Review.

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Each way bet: IBM rejects payroll inquiry conclusions but concedes it must take ‘some responsibility’

Published 07 August 2013 15:49, Updated 08 August 2013 08:22

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Each way bet: IBM rejects payroll inquiry conclusions but concedes it must take ‘some responsibility’

Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg is considering blacklisting IBM from state government work. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

IBM seems to be having a bet each way in its criticism of the Queensland Health IT payroll inquiry.

The technology giant says in a statement that it rejects “many of the findings” of the inquiry – but declines to clarify which ones it disputes.

“While we will not discuss specifics of the report we do not accept many of these findings as they are contrary to the weight of evidence presented,” the statement says.

IBM also says it accepts its share of the blame – but strongly hints that its rightful share is not very much.

“As the prime contractor on a complex project, IBM must accept some responsibility for the issues experienced when the system went live in 2010,” the statement says.

“However, as acknowledged by the commission’s report, the successful delivery of the project was rendered near impossible by the state failing to properly articulate its requirements or commit to a fixed scope.”

IBM says the system was hindered by business process and data migration issues “outside of IBM’s contractual and practical control”. It adds that its fees of $25.7 million account for less than 2 per cent of the $1.2 billion it cost Queensland Health to get the system up and running.

It is not an impressive response from a public relations point of view. It may be technically true that IBM only bears “some responsibility”, but no one likes a qualified apology.

If disputing, be specific

And if IBM wants to dispute the report, it should really be prepared to “discuss specifics”.

There are legal considerations too, of course, although the inquiry specifically says that the Queensland government could not reclaim the money.

IBM’s statements come after the report from the Queensland Health Payroll System Commission of Inquiry was made public earlier this week. In his report, QC Richard Chesterman describes the software failure as the biggest failure in public administration in recent history, and says IBM had an “unnatural advantage” and should never have won the tender.

Even after all the money spent on the system, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman says it still takes 800 employees to process pay for Queensland Health staff each fortnight.

Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborgsays blacklisting IBM from state government work is an option being considered. He has also criticised the behaviour of public servant and former IBM employee Terry Burns.

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