MPs demands end to government IT disasters

A report from the Public Affairs Select Committee has demanded overarching changes that could put an end to a series of costly blunders.

Amongst the Big Society changes that hung over the report there were answers to calls to drive improvements in IT expertise and accountability in the wake of a number of embarrassing disasters.

The flat lining NHS IT computer system for example, costing a massive £12 billion, finally had the plug pulled today. Earlier this week a separate select committee highlighted a half a billion wastage on the FiReControl system, with Margaret Hodge labelling it one of the worst leadership foul ups in recent memory.

Both of the failed projects had received much of the same condemnation. They were poorly managed, with a lack of expertise throughout in delivering results without numerous outsourced consultants. 

A lack of accountability with swiftly changing personnel both in the civil service and in terms of Ministers responsible for putting projects into place have also been lambasted by academics and others.

The PASC report has called for the biggest change to the way that Whitehall is run in a generation however, and it appear that some of these concerns are being targeted.  Three of the main principles of reform will be “leadership, performance, accountability”.

In terms of a lack of IT expertise amongst public servant personnel have been criticised for not being able to negotiate contracts, with relevant experience often ending up with private firms.

Demands were made in the report to “also build up specialist expertise in outsourcing contract management and procurement”.  The current Fast Track scheme for attracting expertise into Whitehall was considered to be lacking.

Aside from retaining the necessary level of expertise within government to deliver projects that do not swiftly descend into fiasco, there were also calls to ensure that those in charge remained accountable.

As TechEye has been told, the problem of those heading up ambitious projects not being held accountable has lead to a number of crises.

However as part of sweeping reforms it is that both at Minsiterial level and for senior greater there should be “much greater continuity among its senior contract and project managers”.

Whether the demands made in the report are likely to put an end to the recurrent disasters  is yet to be seen of course.