Customs ignored Gateway review

Customs and Excise went ahead with a £327m programme to put its services online despite having a "red light" warning from an...

Customs and Excise went ahead with a £327m programme to put its services online despite having a "red light" warning from an Office of Government Commerce Gateway review.

The failure to adhere to the guidelines was disclosed in a House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report last week, which noted that Customs had revised its procedures and now abided by Gateway review recommendations. The reviews aim to avert IT disasters.

Customs' failure to follow Treasury best practice resulted in £28m being spent on 300 consultants between November 2001 and March 2003. There was no senior responsible owner appointed to the programme until May last year - two years after the project started, and there was no analysis of the business case for the project, the report found.

Despite the report, John Oughton, chief executive of the OGC, praised Customs for implementing successful IT projects in a keynote address to the Government Computing Conference.

MP Richard Bacon, who sits on the PAC, said, "You could not call Customs an ideal user when it seems happy to go through a red light." The Gateway reviews need to be strengthened, said Bacon, as currently departments can choose to ignore them.

A spokeswoman for Customs said, "While we have made good progress, we know that lessons need to be learned and more needs to be done. We have introduced controls on consultancy costs, and we will give serious consideration to the PAC's other conclusions with a view to publishing a detailed response and action plan in August."

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