As the Government attempts to bring its services online, a number of government Web initiatives have been hit by fierce criticism from a powerful all-party committee of MPs.
MPs on the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee urged action to "improve the consistency and quality'' of the Government's "hit and miss'' Web sites.
On a more positive note, the committee said in a report that the use of the Internet has the potential to improve efficiencies and quality of service in the Government's dealings with the public. It welcomed the Government's decision to bring forward the date by which it aims to make 100% of services available electronically from 2008 to 2005.
The committee also backed the decision to introduce a new Web search facility - the Government Portal - later this year to help people contact the right department electronically.
However, the MPs expressed concern that the Cabinet Office does not know how many government departments and agencies have a Web site, despite the fact that it takes overall responsibility for electronic government.
They also said too few civil servants are fully skilled on the Web and called for this to be improved.
The MPs said the use of the Internet should help produce "joined-up government", and added that any systems for citizen access must be as simple and quick as possible to encourage greater use.
PAC chairman, former Tory treasury minister David Davis said, "Government on the Web has the potential to revolutionise the relationship between the citizen and the state. It could lead to a transformation in the quality of public services as well as a significant reduction in cost to the taxpayer.
"Progress across government towards fully realising these potential benefits has been rather hit and miss, and this report highlights an urgent need for concerted action to improve the consistency and quality of Web sites. Public services should strive always to be at the forefront in securing the benefit of new technology.''
This was first published in June 2000