Last year the federal government took a public relations beating for its billion-dollar gun registry boondoggle. Ontario recently suffered the same criticism for its Accenture-built social services system that couldn’t handle payment increases to welfare recipients. This year both governments are

looking to the private sector for advice on running a tighter IT ship — but with vastly different budgets.

The federal government, for example, recently announced a series of public consultations with the IT vendor community that will run until January. The contract to facilitate the consultations, for almost $25,000, was awarded to Ottawa-based Public Policy Forum.

The Ontario government also recently appointed a task force to study the management of large information management and information technology (IM/IT) projects. And despite the province’s insistence that it knows only success in such endeavours, it is spending $500,000 to find ways to make it better.

“”The government has had tremendous success with IM/IT projects,”” said Ciaran Ganley, a spokesperson in Ontario’s Management Board Secretariat. “”In fact, it has attained international recognition in its e-government transformation, but as in other organizations it is incumbent upon us to reflect on our processes and evaluate our progress.””

According to Ed Fine, executive director of the organizational readiness office in the IT services branch of Public Works and Government Services Canada (www.solutions.gc.ca/oro-bgc), the federal government is engaged in a horizontal review of expenditures in a number of domains, including information technology. The purpose of those reviews, he added, is to identify how governments can save some of the $5 billion or so it spends each year on IT and be more effective in managing IT across the public sector. PWGSC also recently announced a review of its procurement practices. “”The point is the private sector has more experience in managing on an enterprise basis, and we want to tap into that expertise and knowledge base,”” said Fine.

The consultations will include questionnaires, interviews and roundtables with vendors of all sizes across the country that have been nominated by industry associations such as ITAC and CATA, said Fine. A report summarizing the findings with recommendations on ways to keep the dialogue going will be issued following the consultations.

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