BCG's fees for COVIDSafe app surpass $1 million mark

21 July 2020 3 min. read

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has extended its contract with Boston Consulting Group for its work on the COVIDSafe app for another six weeks, lifting BCG’s total fee income from the project to over $1 million.

In response to the Covid-19 outbreak, Australia turned to open source software built by the Singapore Government (‘the BlueTrace protocol’) to provide the fundament for its own Covid-19 contact tracing app. After the Department of Home Affairs kicked off the preparation and design phase for the app, now known as the COVIDSafe app, the baton was passed on to the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to realise the app.

Boston Consulting Group has been involved from the very start. The firm’s management consultants, designers and digital experts were brought in by Home Affairs to work on the early-stages of the project, on a $220,000 contract. When DTA took responsibility for the development of the Bluetooth-based app, the consulting firm bagged a $484,000 contract extension.

Since then, two extensions have followed, one granted late June worth $181,500, and another confirmed earlier this week worth $143,880. Under the latest mandate, Boston Consulting Group will advise and support the project up to the end of August. 

BCG's fees for COVIDSafe app surpass $1 million mark

Meanwhile, total fees spent on external consultants and contractors for the COVIDSafe app has reached nearly $2.75 million. Other private sector firms working on the engagement include Amazon Web Services, technology company DELV, Melbourne-based IT services firm Shine Solutions and cybersecurity firm Ionize.

However, the fees of consultants are dwarfed in the wider context of spending to promote the app, including advertising of the app on TV, on billboards and online. Total advertising costs reportedly were more than $60 million, although the government has not confirmed how much the exact number was.

New revelations have put pressure on the officials leading the COVIDSafe app. While the app is meant to help trace contacts of people who have been infected with coronavirus, the app has to date not identified a single contact not already picked up by tracers. 

Leading Shadow Health Minister Chris Bowen to call the app a flop. “The Australian people were asked by the government to download the app, in large measure we have, and yet it hasn’t found a single case that hadn’t already been found through manual tracing. The way the government has designed it is not working. It is a failure.” 

After announcing the COVIDSafe app on 14 April, the first version of the app launched on 26 April. In the past three months, several upgrades and updates have been rolled out. 

Earlier this year, the chief strategy officer of the DTA Anthony Vlasic departed his role to re-join BCG thirteen years after leaving the global strategy and management consultancy. His shoes have now been filled by former KPMG veteran Scott Cass-Dunbar.