Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General - Press release VFM examination report on Year 2000 Compliance Projects

Press release issued on 11 May 1999

Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General

Press Release

11 May 1999

Value for Money Report on Year 2000 Compliance Projects

An examination of Year 2000 compliance projects in the Civil Service and other Agencies has been completed by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr John Purcell.

Since the mid 1990s, Government Departments and State Bodies have spent significant resources to ensure that their business operations will not be adversely affected by the Year 2000 problem. The pervasive nature of the problem in terms of the potential failure of key systems which depend on computer processors and the consequent disruption to the provision of public services has increased the urgency of ensuring that all affected systems are rendered compliant before the critical date when the problem might take effect. In order to achieve value for money, projects undertaken to achieve Year 2000 compliance should be planned, managed and completed according to established best practice.

This examination considered how Year 2000 compliance work has been organised and managed in four Government organisations (the Department of Agriculture and Food, the Department of Finance, the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners) and two State Agencies (the Central Bank and the National Treasury Management Agency). It also looked at how three Departments (the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Health and Children, and the Department of Public Enterprise) are monitoring the efforts of bodies under their aegis to achieve compliance.

A report on the examination is being presented to Dáil ?reann today. The main findings of the examination are summarised overleaf.

For further information about the report contents, please contact:

Fergus O’Brien at (01) 679 3122

Main Findings

  • The solution strategies selected by the organisations examined were appropriate and projects have generally proceeded according to project plans.
  • Pressure caused by a shortage of key information technology analysts and programmers has highlighted some inflexibility in recruitment and staff retention procedures in the Civil Service.
  • None of the projects have met the originally suggested target of the end of 1998 for achieving compliance as set out in a best practice advice note issued by the Department of Finance.
  • The likelihood of achieving Year 2000 compliance in good time will largely depend on the results of testing. It would be prudent to review and update contingency plans for the continuance of critical public services in the event that problems emerge in testing or if the projects are not completed on time.
  • There were several areas in planning where best practice was not observed
    • project boards in Government Departments did not have sufficient authority to ensure that the projects were adequately resourced
    • the quality of investment analysis was limited
    • insufficient attention was given to contingency planning
    • delays in obtaining the necessary resources to undertake compliance work have increased costs and risks on some projects.
  • Some bodies under the aegis of the Departments of Health & Children and of Education & Science have been slow to respond to requests for information by those Departments. The Government has issued instructions to improve the frequency of reporting.
  • Central co-ordination and monitoring of Year 2000 compliance by Government Departments was carried out by the Department of Finance through its Centre for Management and Organisation Development (CMOD). The Government also established an Interdepartmental Monitoring Committee to review progress towards compliance and make recommendations to Government, as appropriate. The arrangements for centralised monitoring and co-ordination were generally effective.
  • There was no centralised system to systematically and comprehensively monitor overall costs of Year 2000 compliance, including opportunity costs, which would provide a method for assessing the overall financial implications and the extent to which value for money was being achieved.
  • CMOD issued the advice note to Government Departments in March 1997 establishing best practice for planning Year 2000 compliance projects. The earlier issue of the advice note might have given more scope for improving the functionality of the systems being made compliant.

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