The government has failed to measure the value of its £479m spend on central internet services, according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO).
In 2005, the government began converging online services on Directgov and Business.gov in an effort to reduce its public service websites, of which there were more than 2,500. Since 2006, 1,526 government websites have closed.
"It is a good thing that people visited the two main government websites some 200 million times last year. However, it's still unclear what benefits have been achieved and at what cost. We cannot conclude, therefore, that the taxpayer is securing value for money,” said Amyas Morse, head of the NAO.
Since government has not routinely measured the benefits of online services, it cannot demonstrate optimal use of resources. The NAO found only one instance where the government had estimated the benefits of its investment in online services. For 2010-11, Business.gov estimated that it had saved business £21 for every £1 spent.
Internal satisfaction for Directgov dropped from 71% at the end of 2009-10 to 60% in 2010-11. Satisfaction for Business.gov in the same period reduced from 90% to 84%.
However, the technology that underpins the three services is becoming obsolete and is unlikely to be appropriate for the new digital services, said the report. New techniques and products now available on the market are likely to offer better value for money for the future, such as beta.gov prototype currently being tested by the Government Digital Service (GDS).
The Cabinet Office must ensure that Mike Bracken, executive director for digital at the GDS has absolute control of the user experience across all digital channels and engages with stakeholders to deliver the best services for users, said the report.
But the NAO said it is likely that the services have delivered some cost savings to the public bodies which use them through the reuse of common infrastructure. The services have enabled citizens and businesses to access information in a more organised way, it said.