Government CIO details plan for public sector IT project review

Government CIO John Suffolk has outlined his plans and given more detail on what will happen to public sector IT over the coming months.

Government CIO John Suffolk has outlined his plans and given more detail on what will happen to public sector IT over the coming months.

Final decisions on government IT projects will depend on the Comprehensive Spending Review in the autumn, but departments will spend their time until then recommending which should stay and which should go.

Once the reviews of projects are complete, CIOs will start decommissioning some and renegotiating others.

As well as reviewing and renegotiating projects, Suffolk said the "moratorium" on IT projects is still in place. Departments must get the Treasury's approval before signing any new contracts or contract extensions costing more than £1m, with a few exceptions including the Olympics and specialist defence.

Suffolk said small and medium companies might be exempt if the business is at risk of failure or collapse if signing the contract is delayed. Other exemptions to the moratorium will be granted if there is a "direct negative consequence" of a delay to a contract; if a delay would directly impact a front-line service; or if the IT project delivers a mandatory requirement that cannot be negotiated on.

Project review

The Major Projects Review Team are looking at any IT programmes worth more than £50m, while individual departments will review smaller projects.

Suffolk said in a blog post, "Following the departmental review my team will review the departmental actions and results. We will also look horizontally at projects across government to ascertain if there are any further opportunities for synergy or additional cost savings. Finally, decisions to continue or reshape projects will, of course, be subject to later spending review decisions."

The review process will look at whether each project is an important part of delivering one of the government's priorities, its record of keeping to time and budget, whether it will have a positive return on investment, whether the project could be merged or reduced in scope, and whether it has a poor delivery record or few benefits.

Decommissioning

As projects are reshaped and contracts terminated, the government expects officials to be freed up and able to replace interim employees, consultants and contractors.

For those projects that will keep running, a renegotiation team including Suffolk's staff, the Office of Government Commerce, departmental directors, chief information officers and legal specialists will start discussing the terms of the projects.

Suffolk said the main focus will be to achieve financial savings for the current year, but said, "We do not envisage this to be a one-way conversation. Suppliers understandably will wish us to change some of our ways of doing business, maybe standardise, simplify or reduce our requirements or, indeed, think differently about topics such as risk transfer or the way our teams are structured that drive up their costs."

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