Last week, Health Minister Tony Ryall announced a package of reforms that are promised to save $700 million in backroom savings, which would be transferred to frontline health care. By way of illustration, Ryall challenged the need for 21 District Health Boards to each have separate, different, disconnected IT systems.
Said Ryall: “To better focus on patients, the public health service needs to stop reinventing the wheel 21 times in areas like IT and payroll.” Bravo, Mr Ryall.
Local Government Minister Rodney Hide, about to publicly release his recommended local government reforms, must have smiled like a Cheshire cat at that remark. In his review, Hide has seen situation after situation like the one now playing out in Hawke’s Bay.
Today the HB Regional Council reviews a “Shared Services Integration Report.”
HBRC needs to replace its antiquated computer software systems with an integrated system that can manage financial planning and accounting, customer contacts, property records and related inquiries, document management and environmental monitoring. Fair enough … from what I’ve heard, the existing systems actually sound one step beyond the abacus.
However, the report describes efforts to get other area Councils involved in sharing the same systems. HBRC’s upgrade will be an $820,000 undertaking, after all … ratepayers might think other Councils — who are relating to the same ratepayers, the same properties, etc — would see some benefit from joining in.
But alas, such efficiency is not a priority here in Hawke’s Bay, Minister Hide. Common sense is not our strong suit.
To be fair, the more poverty-stricken Wairoa and CHB Councils are said in the HBRC report to be interested in a shared services initiative. Or, maybe more cautiously, “they are keen to assess” what HBRC is up to.
But no such luck with the Hastings and Napier Councils. Napier sniffs that its present IT systems are just fine, thank you (as are their dog control rules and everything else, they are prone to note). Interestingly, the report notes that the system installed at Napier over six years ago has not been adopted by any new customers since then, apparently because it is not modern enough.
Hastings Council, meanwhile, is planning to spend about $250,000 on its own IT and Customer Relationship Management software systems (plus another $200,000 on associated staffing). Says the HBRC report: “There has been dialogue at the executive level covering progress being made towards the call centre to be established at Hastings District. Hastings District has undertaken to keep this Council informed of the progress and discussions could continue about the possibility of extending this service to include activities at other Councils. [BayBuzz added italics]
Translation of that artfully worded paragraph: HDC to HBRC … “Don’t call us; we’ll call you.”
That about sums up the quest for shared services amongst Councils in Hawke’s Bay. Health Minister Ryall can mandate such efficiencies from above for his dominion. Unfortunately for HB ratepayers, there is no one who can impose common sense upon our area Councils.
Oh … wait … that would be us, the voters, wouldn’t it?