Voco claims vindication in Walter enquiry

No deliberate wrongdoing found in GSN contracts, says consultancy

ICT consultancy Voco claims it has been vindicated with the release of reports into the failed Government Shared Network (GSN).

In a release delivered under embargo until 3pm today, Voco says the report finds no wrong doing by Voco staff.

“The report refutes allegations made about Voco’s performance and conduct in relation to the GSN contracts,” says Voco director Michael Foley.

Voco contracted in late 2004 to manage the design and deployment of the GSN, a shared telecommunications network for public sector agencies.

“The independent inquirer, respected public servant Neil Walter, has done a thorough job and presented a balanced report," Foley says.

“In particular we note his findings that there was ‘no deliberate wrong doing on the part of either [State Services] Commission staff or Voco employees in relation to these contracts’ and significantly that there were no conflicts of interest which could have influenced contract decisions.

“We always maintained we behaved professionally and in good faith and are pleased that Mr Walter agrees."

Computerworld is currently studying two reports, one by Walter into contracts and potential conflicts of interest around the project and another by PricewaterhouseCoopers into the failure of the GSN. Media were delivered the reports and other information requested under the Official Information Act at lunchtime today, also under embargo until 3pm.

We will update our coverage as that develops.

The Walter enquiry was ordered in December last year. State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie decided an internal review of contracts for the GSN project was not enough and appointed an independent enquirer.

"I have since received further information that has confirmed to me the critical importance of conducting this process in a transparent and fair manner, particularly around how contracts were managed and how perceived and potential conflicts of interest were handled," Rennie said.

Voco was investigated after a whistleblower made allegations, reported in the Dominion Post, that Voco was paid too much and that the contracts were extended without being put back out to tender. The paper reported the whistleblower as saying the finance manager of the commission's ICT branch, David Eagles, tried to end the SSC's relationship with Voco on four occasions, but was prevented from doing so.

Foley says Walter makes it clear that a number of factors were outside the control of Voco and the State Services Commission, which were to a ‘large extent’ responsible for the project’s difficulties. These included the ‘increased competitiveness of major telecommunications firms and delays and technical problems caused by key suppliers not living up to their obligations.'"

In relation to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, Foley says the project was undertaken "in an extremely hostile environment" with existing suppliers seeking to maintain the status quo.

“We, along with other project participants, learned much along the way. We note that Mr Walter comments that ‘the Commission management team rated Voco’s performance highly’ and further note that the Commission extended the contract with Voco after the initial media reports.

Voco was established in early 2001 by Michael Foley and Paul Gordon, who along with Jon Wallace are the company’s directors.

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