Regional connectivity program suffers from significant delays: audit

regional phone tower

The NSW Audit Office has found several operational deficiencies in the Regional Digital Connectivity program (RDCP) that have delayed the department’s roll-out of the program.

According to the audit, the Department of Regional NSW failed to:

  • define the overall objectives of the RDCP;
  • develop an overarching investment strategy and address conflicting priorities;
  • identify deficiencies in project and risk management that have caused delays in the program’s implementation;
  • monitor progress against outcomes and demonstrate the program is achieving its purpose; and
  • meet its original mobile coverage performance target of 36,000 square kilometres of new or improved coverage by June 2023, with only 720 square kilometres covered.

However, the audit acknowledged that the department did meet its internet connectivity target of 2,500 premises signing contracts for improved internet services by June 2023, with 13,300 premises covered.

The program also had a $300 million budget delivered in 2019 to improve mobile service coverage in regional NSW, with $100 million dedicated to the Gig State program to improve regional internet connectivity in 2019 also.

The audit also found that all projects had been delayed past their original planned completion date, with some projects had been delayed by more than a year from their original planned timelines. The Wamboin, Bywong and Sutton project has not met its original planned completion date and its revised completion date.

The audit also made several recommendations to the department to improve its management of the RDCP.

“To improve RDCP administration, the report recommends that by June 2025, the department should:

  • develop an overarching investment strategy for the RDCP
  • outline the expected timelines for RDCP projects and ensure that these timelines are updated regularly
  • develop and report on RDCP outcome indicators
  • update the RDCP evaluation plan
  • update the expected benefits of the program to reflect changes in the RDCP.”