Dispatches film - a wasted opportunity?

Colin Beveridge says that the Dispatches programme about wasted public spending was a wasted opportunity.

“Why should I say that? Because Dispatches simply reeled off shocking example after shocking example, without sparing any time whatsoever to analyse properly the causes of the waste, or more importantly the likely remedies.

Call it a sloppy programme, if you like, call it lazy, if you must.  I’ll settle for calling  it a squandered opportunity.

For once the problem of The Trillion Dollar Bonfire could have been addressed by a mainstream broadcaster but once again the ambition of the programme makers did not extend beyond the soft target that presents itself so easily to the media, almost every day: poor government thinking.

Channel 4 would have been far better off using NPfIT as the centrepiece for the hour and drawing on your own excellent work, rather than taking the scattergun approach, which sadly diluted some very serious messages.”

 

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Colin – I’d like the NPfIT to have been a focus for the film. That’s lot harder than it may sound. The NPfIT excerpt in the film was about five minutes – and you’d be surprised at how much fact-checking went into that.

The spin machinery of government runs smoothly when publicising what it wants publicised; and it’s at its most creative when up against journalists, particularly those in the broadcast media, who are researching stories the government doesn’t want publicised. It can then confuse by making the complex sound even more complex than it is, by obstructing, and even by misleading. And sometimes it threatens.

I don’t know how efficiently the machinery operated with the Dispatches programme. I do know that the programme’s producers and lawyers were extraordinarily careful in checking the facts.

It would probably be easy to produce a 30 or 60 minute film, mainly on the NPfIT, if you were working with the full co-operation of the Department of Health. You’d have access to all the NHS sites and interviewees you needed.

But researching a 30 or 60 minute film on the NPfIT when working against the machinery of government would be a feat, needing a lot of time, money, patience and tenacity – which are not in ready supply, especially in a recession.

Besides, in this case, the programme’s researchers wanted to show the size and breadth of projects which fail to meet expectations. I agree it was a scattergun approach. But at least the programme’s makers didn’t avoid the NPfIT altogether, which would have made their lives so much easier.

Links:

The trouble with Government IT Projects – Colin Beveridge

Fighting the trillion dollar bonfire – Colin Beveridge

Dispatches – C4 website  

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I agree with Colin,blurred accountability is in my experience the real reason for a lot of the IT failures.Gateway Reviews are led by and for the most part Programme Directors who just cover up the truth, resulting in ministers just being given the good news. If there was better governance, realistic budgets set,timescales agreed and monitored on a regular basis would we would not have the problems identified in the programmes.The NHS IT systems affect patient care and should be looked at as an urgent priority.

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An ex-colleague of mine went to work on the NPfIT for a year as a consultant. The following year he didn't have to work, and travelled the world. While he wouldn't discuss the project he made it clear how incredibly well paid he had been for some fairly basic project management work. It makes you wonder what people have made out of this project.

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