Quebec pulls the plug on sweeping IT overhaul

MONTREAL — After five years and about $170 million dollars already invested, the Quebec government this week said it is putting the brakes on a project to replace more than 1,000 internal IT systems.

GIRES, which

stands for Gestion intégrée des ressources (integrated resource management) was aimed at replacing most of the aging computer systems of the government’s 124 departments and public organizations.

GIRES was to be based on an integrated Oracle e-business suite serving more than 66,000 public sector employees, handling 5,500 queries at the same time and storing at least 35 terabytes of data. The project was to upgrade the IT equipment that handles the province’s human, financial and material resources, some of which dated back to the 1970s. Compaq, before it merged with HP, won the hardware side of the business.

The system was being implemented by EDS Canada with partner DMR (now known as Fujitsu Consulting outside Quebec). EDS Canada had won the $180 million, five-year integration contract for GIRES in July 2001.

One of the main concerns of the Québec government with the project was the growing cost of the proposed system, according to Treasury Board president and minister in charge of the government administration, Monique Jérôme-Forget. Original budget for the project, as established in 1999, was around $80 million. The most recent cost estimate, on the other hand, was of about $345 million, which could eventually reach the $400 million level all of the financing is taken into account, she said.

Last June, the Treasury Board asked Jacques Lyrette, vice-president of ADGA Group, an Ottawa-based consultancy, and Jacques Henry, vice-president of the Québec’s Commission de la santé et de la sécurité au travail (Workers Compensation Board) to analyze the state of the project and recommend an appropriate solution to control the costs.

A report from this special advisory board was given to minister Jérôme-Forget at the end of last month, which leding to Tuesday’s announcement.

Jérôme-Forget said she has given the mandate to the newly named associate secretary in charge of the government info-highway and information resources, Robert Desbiens, to reorganize the project and come up with a new scenario to develop a system that would be closer to the needs and budget of the Québec government. Desbiens is a former vice-president strategic development eastern region for Cisco Canada.

GIRES attracted controversy almost from the beginning when SAP, which was among the initial bidders in the project, disputed the province’s choice of Oracle and filed through its lawyers, McCarthy Tétreault, a request in judgement against the Government of Québec. A superior Court Justice in Quebec later ruled in favour of Oracle. GIRES $25 million software purchase was the largest in the provincial government’s history.


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