Whitehall departments "find reasons for inaction"


Whitehall departments "find reasons for inaction"

Tony Collins
Government departments have a "tendency to find reasons for inaction" and a reluctance to invest in Internet-based technologies because they fear an IT disaster, according to a National Audit Office report.

Although the report is entitled "Better Public Services Through E-Government" it takes a look at government IT projects in general and highlights many weaknesses.

It says departments are adopting a "wait and see" approach to electronic service delivery.

Although more than 50% of government services are online in that they give advice and information, only a "small number" of services are available electronically, where a citizen can apply for and receive a service such as a new passport or driving licence.

The report found there was an "unwillingness to divert resources from established ways of doing things". In part this was because contracting arrangements with existing suppliers were difficult to change without incurring large costs.

The report also studied the Treasury's Gateway reviews which were heralded by Whitehall as providing a tough series of mandatory checks on incipient IT projects to pre-empt disaster.

The NAO found that of six projects it examined in detail only two had been subject to Gateway reviews. Those Gateway reviews carried out found that good practice was not always adhered to.

The full report is available at www.nao.gov.uk

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