Poor MIS hinders Whitehall savings

A number of the Government's management information systems need a radical overhaul to ensure that it gets value for money from...

A number of the Government's management information systems need a radical overhaul to ensure that it gets value for money from professional services, Peter Gershon, chief executive of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), told the Commons Public Accounts Committee last week.

"In some areas management information systems are not particularly good and need to be strengthened," he said.

The House of Commons hearing was investigating the Government's £610m annual spending on professional advice such as management consultancy and legal services.

A report from the National Audit Office earlier this year urged the Government to collate management information to determine the value for money departments are getting from purchasing.

Auditors estimated that £45m could be saved if government departments negotiated better agreements with suppliers by using information to compare fees and understand their suppliers' costs.

Overall, the National Audit Office estimates that cost savings of £60m are possible.

Gershon admitted that the Government faces a difficult technological challenge if it is to improve management information systems.

"These are expensive, IT-based projects, they need to be undertaken with care and consideration," he said.

The OGC is trying to achieve a situation where all departments will have modern management information systems, he said.

It has already started work on a database to compile procurement information across government. Officials have described the scheme as a "major, ongoing project".

Gershon also told the Commons committee that the OGC is taking a deliberately slow approach to e-procurement. He explained, "We are undertaking a series of pilots to get a better understanding of the technologies."

Earlier this year Gershon's department set up OGC Tendertrust, an electronic tendering system designed to support the drive towards modernising government systems.

Officials have estimated that the Web-based system could reduce suppliers' tendering costs by £37m and save taxpayers about £13m over four years.
The OGC was set up in 2000 to lead a wide-ranging programme to modernise procurement in government.

Gershon's department also represents the UK on procurement matters in Europe and at the World Trade Organisation.

Read more on Business applications