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Frankly I have come to the conclusion that I am leading a first rate department with second rate infrastructure support. There needs to be a substantial capital investment in our communications capabilities.
Dr Shergold in his address to staff on 14 May 2003

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Information infrastructure

The outsourcing contract with Telstra Enterprise Services Proprietary Limited for the provision of information technology and telecommunications (IT&T) services to Group 5 government agencies expires on 30 June 2004. (The Departments of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; Communications, Information Technology and the Arts; Industry, Tourism and Resources; and Transport and Regional Services; with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, make up Group 5.) The contract includes an option to extend the contract for an additional two years. The department will not exercise that option.

In late 2002, the department considered options for future IT&T service delivery. Acumen Alliance was engaged to develop a strategy for IT&T outsourcing appropriate to the department’s future business needs. The strategy recommended that the department seek outsourced IT&T services as a single agency rather than in a cluster arrangement, under a selective sourcing model.

A request for registrations of interest in the provision of IT&T services was issued in May 2003. Although not finalised at the time of reporting, this process indicated that there were a number of providers who could effectively deliver the required services.

As part of the ongoing process of making improvements to the department’s IT&T infrastructure support systems, measures implemented during the year included:

  • developing a technology plan that establishes the department’s technical architecture expectations for the next three years
  • revising the department’s information technology security policy and developing security plans for major information technology systems
  • managing the transfer of the HIH and building and construction industry royal commission websites to the department, and the websites’ subsequent archiving
  • upgrading the department’s local area network infrastructure to improve the performance, security and reliability of the network
  • managing the development of the new CABNET Standard Operating Environment (SOE) and the rollout of new CABNET workstations and SOE and biometric authentication hardware to the department, the Prime Minister’s Office, Cabinet ministers’ offices and 21 Australian Government departments and agencies
  • replacing the water based fire suppression system in the department’s computer room with a gas based system
  • upgrading the library management system (Horizon) to include a web enabled front end for the library catalogue.

The department also contributed to the eGovernment Benefits study commissioned by the National Office of the Information Economy (NOIE), participated in eGovernment Week - held at Parliament House between 11 and 14 November 2002 - and contributed to NOIE’s survey on future options for promoting eGovernment initiatives.

The Information Management Strategic Advisory Committee, referred to above, will provide an important forum for generating advice to the departmental Executive on strategies and policy for the effective use of information resources and on the development of information infrastructure and services that support the department’s business outcomes.

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The Library

The Library provided a comprehensive reference and research service and developed, managed and maintained appropriate resources to support the information needs of the department.

The Library’s major achievements included:

  • providing clients with desktop web based access to the Library’s online catalogue
  • providing clients with desktop access to AAP NewsCentre, a customised media monitoring service provided by Australian Associated Press
  • contributing holdings records to the National Library of Australia’s National Bibliographic Database, to reciprocally share the Library’s resources with other Australian libraries and achieve a measure of cost-recovery for the department.

The department completed an in-house study, involving 13 Australian Government libraries, on trends in the delivery and management of library services, and subsequently engaged a consultant to undertake a strategic review of the Library. The purpose of the review was to identify the department’s information requirements and to assess the relevance and effectiveness of the Library’s services in meeting those needs. The review is being conducted in close consultation with library staff, departmental employees and senior managers, and will be completed by August 2003.

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Records management

Following its review of the internal audit of procedures relating to records management in 2001-02, the department continued with the process of improving its compliance with relevant legislation and the requirements of the National Archives of Australia.

The department’s key achievements in records management during the year included:

  • establishing the requirements for upgrading the records management system (known as TRIM)
  • developing a records sentencing programme under a new National Archives of Australia Records Disposal Authority
  • transferring the custody of files from the HIH and building and construction industry royal commissions to the department
  • completing the biannual file census of the department’s Top Secret files
  • coordinating the list of departmental files required to be produced in accordance with Senate Continuing Order No. 5.

The department also commenced developing records management guidelines for inclusion in the CEIs and reviewing records management policy and procedures.

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Ministerial correspondence

The Ministerial Correspondence Unit (MCU) registered, coordinated, quality checked and despatched VIP, organisational, and general ministerial correspondence and briefings. It also provided advice, assistance and training to others in the processing of ministerial correspondence and the use of the ministerial correspondence management system.

The Parliamentary Correspondence Management System was upgraded to provide a more efficient system during the year. A significant improvement was the introduction of a capability to electronically refer email addressed to the Prime Minister to other relevant ministers. The enhancement reduced the time taken to refer this type of correspondence, from up to ten days to a maximum of three days from the date of its receipt in the department.

As noted in the Performance Overview of this report, the MCU processed approximately 159,000 pieces of correspondence (an average of 636 per day) addressed to the Prime Minister or ministers assisting the Prime Minister.

Nearly 3,900 briefings (in the form of minutes) were provided to the Prime Minister, parliamentary secretaries and ministers assisting the Prime Minister, covering all four output groups and the department’s various corporate service functions.

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