PPARS- a comedy of errors

PPARS- a comedy of errors

By Niall Hunter-Editor

Severe criticism of the financial and organisational management of the controversial PPARS health payroll and personnel system is contained in an examination of the system by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Tanaiste Mary Harney, in response to the report, has said a anumber of 'classic mistakes' were made with PPARS and the detail of the report bears this out. It details a litany of administrative and financial inefficienies and a lack of accountability and monitoring in relation to escalating costs.

The PPARS project was reviewed by external consultants on five occasions since its instigation in the mid-1990s, but not one of the reviews provided a meaningful challenge to the case for continuing with the controversial payroll project, the C&AG’s report on the project states.

It says the reviews tended to justify the continuation of the project, although a wider review scope might have focused attention on the escalating cost, reduced scope and the risks to timeliness and coherence experienced with the development of PPARS.

The report points out that PPARS, whose further roll-out is suspended and is being reviewed by the HSE, has experienced a number of problems since going live.

Major matters requiring attention were still being highlighted by staff in the areas where the project was being piloted in June of this year, prompting the drawing up of a 'top 10' issues list.

The report says that while some of these issues related to bugs or system errors, others related to demands for additional functionality over and above that previously provided.

This, it says, is indicative of a failure to properly define business requirements prior to the system going live.

It adds that a major frustration for staff is that work has not yet been carried out to enable the production of standard reports from the integrated system to assist in the management of human resources.

It appears that where the payroll system has gone live, little or no redeployment of staff has taken place and additional resources are required for the system, especially for the recording and entering of time.

There is no evidence of staff savings having been achieved by the introduction of PPARS, according to the C&AG.

The report says the total cost incurred on the project at August 31 of this year was around 131 million euros. Out of this, 57 million euros went to consultants and contractors, 20 million to project infrastructure, 17 million to national administration and 37 million euros on local agency costs.

The Deloitte firm was paid 38.5 million in respect of advice and support, according to the report.

It says the latest estimates for the cost of the project to date are 195 million euro­this is the cost to completion of the rollout in St James’s Hospital and eight HSE areas in the period to December 31 of next year.

Tracing the history of the PPARS system, which was first, mooted in 1995, the report says a fixed price contract for implementation services was awarded to the firm Bull Information Systems Ltd (BISL) in 1998 at a budgeted cost of just over 9 million euros.

It was estimated that the implementation of PPARS in the initial pilot health agencies would take two years. However, not long into the BISL contract is became obvious that it would not be possible to have the system implemented in that timeframe, and the work involved had been 'seriously underestimated'.

Following a dispute about the basis for the contract, the agreement with BISL was concluded. The dispute was over whether BISL’s work was fixed price or based on 'time and materials'.

By the end of 2001, more than three years after commencement of the BISL agreement, only the personnel administration elements of the system had been implemented, according to the report.

In 2002, the Department of Health insisted that national coverage with PPARS, in spite of the difficulties to date, was essential.

Deloitte Consulting were hired, largely on a ‘time and materials’ cost basis to assist with the project implementation.

At this stage the estimated cost of PPARS was 109 million euro with an expected completion date in 2005.

Appraisals of the project were then carried out, but both appraisals fell short of the requirement of a full business case for the project, according to the C&AG.

One of the appraisals 'was seriously deficient' with regard to analysis of costs, according to the report.

While annual estimates were produced, there was no definitive overall budget extending over the life of the project which linked money to ‘deliverables’.

The C&AG says he found that the estimates prepared in the course of the project were not supported by detailed costs analysis and were mostly framed in the context of funding requests.

The report says there is evidence of a lack of clarity regarding the role of Deloitte, and this militated against clear direction and control.

Because of the uncertainty around funding and other issues, the PPARS National Project Team entered into a series of short-term agreements with Deloitte and this procurement approach is unsuited to a multi-annual project on the scale of PPARS, according to the report.

The C&AG also points out that a competition for the procurement of technical configuration and support contractors was held in November 2002, one year after the Project Team began to engage personnel on an ad-hoc basis.

"Notwithstanding the result of the competition, there does not appear to have been any change in the companies engaged in this work", according to the report.

Companies that had not been involved in PPARS until then, but who ranked well on price, were not engaged.

Evan after this procurement round, the actual rates paid to a number of companies who submitted tenders was higher than their tendered rates, according to the report.

The C&AG says the desire of the Department of Health to implement the project as quickly as possible overstretched resources and resulted in a failure to fully complete two declared pilot sites before moving on to new sites.

The failure to learn from experiences with pilot sites and adapt this to subsequent sites impacted negatively on the project.

The report says issues with PPARS included a failure to develop a clear vision of what strategic personnel management actually meant for the health service; substantial variation in pay and conditions and processes between and within health agencies; and the lack of readiness of health agencies to adapt to the change management required.

The report says that while a good deal of work needs to be done to improve PPARS it does have achievements which can be built on, including having a single system across the whole sector and the creation of expertise within the system which may be available for other developments if it is not dissipated.

Comments

Anonymous - 16/12/2005 00:26

This government has so much money it just does not know how to manage it, it is throwing good money after bad and the only people benefitting from the money are the consultants and advisors, they have it made laughing all the way to the bank, Its a disgrace the way the money is squandered left right and centre when there is so much need out in society. If we squandered money the way the government does, we would all be living on the streets with the debts we would have. Is there no sane honest person in this country that can take control over all this spending? Advisors just sit back and rub their hands and scribble on their pads calculating what they can make out of things, the computer people have degrees in gobbelty gook to hoodwink people with 'computer speak' and they are raking it in. The more problems a system has, the more money they make and rest assured they will continue to make money because the hick-ups are built into the system and they will be called upon on a continual basis to 'fix' the problem. The people in power and charge of this type of thing should be hanging their heads in shame, for shame when so many people are in need and poverty and suffering. Shame.

Hilda - 18/12/2005 11:58

WHo was responsible for this? Are they going to name names? How many people could have been taken off the waiting lists with this money? So many questions. Is anyone ever going to answer them? I doubt it.

liam(lcollins) - 19/12/2005 01:21

the present goverment is like the rest, screw the workers, someone has to use the money , that is being paid in taxes,

Ho. - 19/12/2005 13:42

The people \" given\" cushy \"jobs\", putting Info into the computer system, needs also to be investigated. Like all the \"jobs\" / \"promotions\", in the hospitals / health system, The people were not \"chosen\", on merit or ability. In one hospital I am aware of, someone with very basic computer knowledge was cherry picked for the lucrative \"job\", supposedly for 6 months. But now a few years on she\'s still in the job, and collecting the dosh. I expect she\'s not the only one cherry picked. And I expect other hospitals cherry picked \"their own\". That\'s how things are done in Irish hospitals. That\'s how it\'s done in the Irish health system. And that\'s the reason the Irish hospitals, and health system is in the mess it\'s in. And only for the media, it would be covered up / buried for eternity. Happy Christmas, and 2006. And Don\'t get sick. Hospitals are dangerous places.

James(JRE29792) - 23/03/2006 00:26

It fails me why we can not get our universities to carry out our test projects and do the R&D Payroll systems Election Computer tests etc .Put all this waisted money to good use in R&D at universities to run a check these systems before they come on stream with all the problems. The consultants are getting paid for what I ask? What qualifications had those consultants that failed us & waisted money,where are our PENALTY CLAUSES? Why is a MINISTER so called a MINISTER?

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