Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Spilling some beans on NSW govt's inability to pay bills on time

The time has come for a confession.
DH has a fair idea why the NSW government cannot pay its bills, and she is partly to blame.
The short answer in her experience is SAP, short-staffing, and short-term funding. But first:
A short excursion along DH's career path.
DH is a somewhat incompetent geek, with limited capacity for multi-tasking, an obsessive and time- consuming attention to minor detail, a treacherous short-term memory which condemns her to spending 1/2 her waking hours searching for that piece of paper she just had in her hand, and 1/2 of the rest cursing her inability to find a ringing mobile in the 3 compartments of her handbag.
In a capitalist world dedicated to speed and efficiency DH is a job tragic.
DH sometimes thinks she is the Typhoid Mary of teetering NGO's and hopeless government departments. When they are reduced to employing the likes of her, it's a sure sign that they are on the brink of brutal restructuring or death.
If DH was an employer she would never hire herself, but of course she can't tell them that otherwise Centrelink would breech her. So she keeps amassing a more and more impressive and lengthy CV as she reels from job to job that she is not really suited to
With the Howard government dedicated to a punitive proddy work ethic, a hatred of perceived shirking, a total failure to respect human diversity, and a commitment to brutally stuffing square pegs willy-nilly into round holes, DH must needs be made to play her small part in the downfall of capitalism.
Thus it was that she found herself as assistant to the project manager of a major governmental capital works project. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!
Well, it wasn't all bad. Being an aspie geek, she's a bit of computer whizz. So a lot of her time was spent being nursemaid to a fiendishly complex, 5 page (A3 page yet!) wide spreadsheet.
Yes folks, some of our major government departments, who promote themselves as state-of-the art project managers, had not yet heard of the technical innovation know as the Database! (In fairness, this was way back in the technological dark ages of 2007, so perhaps we should be a little bit forgiving)
When DH apprised her bosses of the possibilities of technology, they finally twigged that it might be good to invest in an upgrade. But it seems that with government funding to its own internal consultants being only approved from year to year, they did not dare to spend money to save money on infrastructure in case the whole project was torpedoed in the next financial year.
But that is a diversion from the bill payment question.
Part of DH's job was processing payments to contractors, poor souls, regional mum-and-dad partnerships, who sometimes had to wait for months to see the money, and yes, it was her fault alone.
Her department meanwhile was staggering under the imposition of a new (fiendishly complex again) SAP system that couldn't cope with the specifics of their particular kind of work. Her poor boss, while running multi-gazillion dollar projects was literally reduced to spending at least one precious day a month just hunting down the codes necessary to fill in his timesheet!
Her predecessor had been sacked for failing to cope with the complexities of The-Spreadsheet-That-Wanted-to-be-a-Database, under some approbrium, totally undeserved, as of course, training is an ideal rarely achieved in any workplace that DH has been associated with. And with every department running on a shoestring budget with minimum staff levels, there was no redundancy in the system so when someone left, Grade 11-12 public servants would find a good part of their day relegated to training up Grade 4-5's to process Accounts Payable. It took a good 6 weeks for DH to learn the ropes, and attend to the numerous crises that affect stretched workplaces. Meanwhile the creditors floundered.
And that's about it. In between days spent trying to force-feed SAP with codes it couldn't swallow, ministering to spreadsheets, soothing desperate project managers going spare about wasted time, and DH's desperately absent-minded paper-shufflings, poor old contractors slid to the bottom of the priority list.
It's a miracle anything got built at all really.
That it did was a massive testament to DH's fellow workers, who despite being hampered at every turn, gave 200%, and of course, extra hours without pay, to get it all done miraculously more or less on schedule.

1 comment:

p.b.dunn said...