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Sky Sentinel What is this and does it work??

Sky Sentinel and it’s role in CASA [from the 18th November 2013 Senate estimates and Hansard]:

Senator XENOPHON: I want to ask some questions on Sky Sentinel—

CHAIR: How many more minutes do you need?

Senator XENOPHON: Three or four. I think there is a technical aspect. I just want to refer to some correspondence—whether questions need to be formally tabled. I will just get some advice from the secretary in relation to that. The secretary says it should be fine to refer to them. Thank you.
Mr McCormick, I will go to issues of Sky Sentinel. The deputy chair, Senator Sterle, asked a series of very comprehensive questions. And I am very grateful to Senator Sterle. There has clearly been a cost blow-out: $255,750 was originally allocated to the Sky Sentinel project. Now the total funding of the Sky Sentinel project has blown out to $1,570,396. How much has Sky Sentinel cost so far?

Mr McCormick: I will get that number for you—

Senator XENOPHON: It has blown out a lot though, hasn’t it?

Mr McCormick: No, in actual fact it came in under the budget. The amount you are referring to—the large amount is for the training, the writing of the manuals, the introduction of the standards and the whole thing. The actual costs of Sky Sentinel, to purchase it, I think were in the order of—it is in that answer; I will find it in a minute.

Senator XENOPHON: So when it says the amount ‘originally allocated’ and the ‘total funding’, you are saying that the original allocation was always within budget?

Mr McCormick: The original allocation to purchase it was only about $35,000—from memory. The cost to make it into code, into SQL, from what it was written in, to provide the security that the government requires around it, then to do the training, the rollout to all the offices, et cetera—that entire program allocation was $2,840,438, which included the platform costs, which were $255,700.

The development and implementation of the surveillance approach, which involved the rewriting of the surveillance manual, training people et cetera, was originally $1,415,000 cost. That might be the one you are looking at. In actual fact that was $1,182,000. The actual project business implementation costs were $236,000 versus $367,000. So, to get to the bottom line, we thought it would cost $2,840,438; it actually came in at $2,447,184.

Senator XENOPHON: And you are satisfied that it is working as it was meant to?

Mr McCormick: It has certainly revolutionised the approach that we have. We have had numerous approaches form people overseas wishing to use the same system and take it on board.

Senator XENOPHON: This issue that was raised about the contract of sale included ‘confirmation from the CASA employee that the source code used to develop AWS was created by him and did not reproduce source code from any other software program’. You can assure us there are no issues about the proprietary nature of that code?

Mr McCormick: We have researched that extensively through legal; the answer was that there are no issues involved.

Senator XENOPHON: There are no claims or litigation involving that. That is good.

Mr McCormick: There never has been.

Senator XENOPHON: I am very pleased to hear that.

Senator FAWCETT: In question 3 of those notices, you were asked whether the advice of the chief information officer sought prior to the decision being taken. The answer was yes. Perhaps the question was not well framed; what was the advice of the chief information officer?

Did he indicated that he thought that Pentana may in fact have a case to claim for breach of IP?

Mr McCormick: I will just ask the deputy director, who was more involved, to answer that.

Mr Farquharson: The CIO raised questions about IT security, in terms of the language in which the platform was originally written in. The first amount of money went to rewriting the code into a SQL database. The advice that we received from trying to do our due diligence was that in any case the code was not even remotely like Pentana’s code itself and was written in quite a different code and manner.

Senator FAWCETT: That does not specifically answer my question. When the CEO was asked for his opinion, did he express an opinion that CASA could be exposed to a claim of a breach of IP by Pentana?

Mr Farquharson: Yes, I think he may well have.

Mr McCormick: That was always part of the due diligence process—that we would review that.

Senator FAWCETT: On what basis was his opinion as your chief information officer overridden?

Mr McCormick: No, he raised it as a point, from my memory. In actual fact, when we explored the IP and—through legal—we took outside legal advice on it, he was satisfied that there were no IP issues. That is my recollection.

Senator FAWCETT: Could you clarify that for us and come back with a trail?

Mr McCormick: We certainly will give you a time trail in our responses. I have got them here now for those questions. We have tried to outline them as clearly as we could regarding how it has gone forward.

Senator FAWCETT: I am asking on that particular point, if you have received advice that his concerns were not valid, could you present the committee with a document to demonstrate that?

Mr McCormick: Yes, we can take that on notice.

“On notice” again