IT Governance in the public sector

IT Governance is not a legal requirement as in, for example, the United States where it has been mandated through the Sorbens-Oxley legislation. That doesn't mean that it is entirely optiona. Due to the King III/IV report on Governance of organisations, it is highly recommended that not only IT Governance is implemented, but also Enterprise Governance.

Because of the ever increasing cost of Information Technology and the high level of IT projects not achieving its objectives as planned, the Governance of IT is a world-wide drive to ensure that IT and IT expenditure is aligned to the achievement of business objectives. The Auditor General (AG) during 2009/2010 found that public sector IT were not fulfilling their strategic responsibilities, largely due to inadequate accountability structures resulting in IT not being represented at a strategic (executive) management level.

The view that IT should be governed and managed at a political leadership and executive management level is supported by international accepted good practices and standards in the form of King III Code of Good Governance, ISO 38500 Standard for the Corporate Governance of IT and COBIT a comprehensive Governance IT Process Framework. It also places accountability for governance of IT fully in the hands of political leadership and executive management. This accountability enables the Public sector to align the delivery of IT services with the Government's strategic goals.

The cost of Information Technology in government has caused several measures to monitor and curb those costs, like the establishment of a State Information Technology Agency (SITA) as well as a proposal to investigate and implement if possible, Free and Open Source (FOSS) technology.

FOSS could not be implemented as much as much as maybe expected, for different reasons. However, managing IT costs is high on the priority of government. The South African government issued a Ministerial directive in 2013, instructing all government departments to put IT Governance in place. The process were entrusted to the Department of Public Service (DPSA) for implementation of ICT Governance and the public sector has been given a time-line in which ICT Governance must be implemented.

The purpose of IT Governance is to serve as an enabler of an organization’s strategic objectives through, inter alia, achieving stakeholder value.

When IT Governance is effectively implemented and maintained, the following benefits are realised:

  • Improved achievement of strategic goals;
  • Improved IT enablement of business;
  • Improved delivery of IT service quality;
  • Improved stakeholder communication;
  • Continuous improvement of business and IT alignment;
  • Improved trust between IT, the business, stakeholder and citizens;
  • More controlled IT costs;
  • Increased alignment of investment towards strategic goals; 
  • Improved return on IT-enabled investment;
  • IT risks managed in line with the priorities and appetite
  • Appropriate security measures to protect information;
  • Improved management of business-related IT projects; 
  • Improved management of information
  • IT pro-actively recognises opportunities and guides the organisation in timeous adoption of appropriate technology;
  • Improved IT ability to learn and agility to adapt to changing circumstances; and
  • IT executed in line with legislative and regulatory requirements.

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