How much can you get out of a public company for a website refresh? If you are working for Sydney Water, the answer would be AU$7 million.

The revelations arrived yesterday, courtesy of the ABC, and detail how Sydney Water spent 4.5 percent of its IT budget over the past three years on the site refresh for

While the government and the opposition are asking questions about how it all came to pass, the final sum of AU$7.1 million could have been so much more.

“After a comprehensive tender process, Sydney Water established a new website earlier this year, along with other IT capabilities at a cost of AU$7.1 million, which was 42 percent lower than quotes received in the tender process,” Sydney Water’s managing director Kevin Young said in a statement.

“The website came in $0.7 million under budget.”

That’s one thing, but the final paragraph in the statement is something else entirely.

“Sydney Water has one of the lowest overall retail costs of water utilities in Australia, and the new website’s capability will contribute to maintaining these low costs by delivering the services customers have told us they want.”

The company cites that since the site’s launch, there have been “138,995 internet payments via the new website, totalling more than AU$35 million”. It sounds like a raging success, but there is that small matter of being a government-owned monopoly utility to over 4 million people.

But this isn’t my favourite story of governmental website excesses; that honour falls to the South African Free State government, which parted with 40 million rand, just over US$4m, for a site based on WordPress and making use of a $40 theme.

Gaze upon the Free State’s R40m site. I figure I could have done it for a tidy R20m, at least.