Another example of IT anarchy within government?

Some reports of the Public Accounts Committee (which are drafted by the National Audit Office] highlight goings-on within the machinery of government that make one wonder whether some public and civil servants have relinquished any interest in buying IT and have handed the job to their IT suppliers.

“Give us what you think we need, then send us the invoice” seems to be the approach at times.

Perhaps this helps to explain why the Equality and Human Rights Commission could not explain to public accounts MPs why it disposed of IT inherited when it was formed, and spent £9.3m on new systems.


A report of the Public Accounts Committee says that the Commissionspent £9.3m buying new equipment, such as computer terminals, “eventhough it inherited equipment from the Legacy Commissions”.

The report adds

“The Commission wrote off assets inherited from the LegacyCommissions at a cost of £1.4m. The Commission could not explain why itchose not to use the equipment it inherited from the Legacy Commissions.”

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Was the Commission completely unsupervised by government?

Another part of the PAC report highlights practices that suggest the Commission went unsupervised by any part of government.

A  Gateway Review by the Office of Government Commerce found that theCommission was not ready to open for business because it didn’t haveenough senior staff, a transition strategy, a business strategy, anorganisation design or job descriptions. It opened anyway.

The PAC report says:

“Mistakes were made by the then sponsor department (the Department for Communities
and Local Government), the Legacy Commissions and the Commission’s transition team
in the handling of an early exit scheme which was offered to employees of the Legacy
Commissions.

“The Commission had no control over which staff transferred to it orwho left under the scheme, leaving it 140 people short and with skillsgaps in key areas.

“Some of these gaps were filled by bringing back former employees ofthe Commission for Racial Equality as consultants, even though they hadall received severance payments through the early exit scheme.

“The Commission failed to follow the correct process and did not obtainapproval from the Treasury before entering into these arrangements.

“The Treasury did not grant approval retrospectively on the groundsthat the Commission could not prove that these re-engagements gave goodvalue for money. This expenditure was therefore deemed irregular andthe Comptroller and Auditor General issued a qualified opinion on theCommission’s 2006-08 accounts.

“Weaknesses in the Commission’s controls have continued beyond the period covered by
the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (C&AG) report …”

With grim understatement, the report adds:

“This is not the way that this Committee expects public bodies to be run.”

**

So what’s to stop the same thing happening again when government growsa new arm? Nothing it seems, except the retrospective vigilance of theNAO and the PAC.

Links:

Public Accounts Committee on the Commission – Parliamentary website

Failed £234m C-Nomis project – ministers not told the whole truth – IT Projects Blog

The NAO’s most serious criticism of any Govt IT Project? – IT Projects Blog

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