Audit finds failure to manage State planning portal risks
The Department of Planning and Environment failed manage the "strategic risks" of the Government's mandatory introduction of the NSW Planning Portal, according to a report by the Audit Office of NSW.
This may have had consequences for Central Coast Council's new planning portal implemented last December.
"The government's decision significantly changed the program's strategic risk environment, primarily because the program was now required to work more closely with councils and technology vendors that had been less engaged with the program," the report stated.
"Although the department understood that mandating the portal would have significant implications for councils and other users, it did not update its main change management approach."
The report said that the department did not alter any key planning assumptions, or provide additional time or cost contingency to support the new mandatory use of the portal.
"The new mandate required them (councils) to change aspects of their own systems and processes, irrespective of their quality or maturity.
"As a result of the mandate, many councils had to separate the integration of their planning systems from other council systems such as finance systems or property and rating systems.
"For these and some other users, the portal may bring more costs than benefits."
The Audit Office stated that the department's claim of $334 million of benefits in September 2021 was overstated, were not "independently assured", and "may not fully account for dis-benefits reported by some stakeholders".
"The department has not yet measured stakeholder costs.
"Some users consulted as part of this audit report that the system is not intuitive and creates additional work for them, primarily because the portal duplicates work that they carry out in their own systems.
"Some councils report that their costs have increased following the introduction of the portal, primarily because aspects of the portal duplicate work that they carry out in their own systems.
"The portal has also required some councils to re-engineer aspects of their own systems, such as the integration of their planning systems with other council systems such as finance or property and rating systems.
"It has also required councils to create new ways of integrating council information systems with the planning portal."
Central Coast Council's new planning portal has suffered poor performance and reduced functionality since it was introduced over the Christmas holidays at the start of the year.
The report stated: "It was beyond the scope of this audit to validate the costs to stakeholders."
The consequent effects of the portal's introduction on Council systems also seemed to be beyond the scope of the audit.
However, the report stated: "The department recognises that the planning portal does not currently deliver an optimum experience for all users."
Audit, 21 Jun 2022
NSW planning portal, Audit Office of NSW