Canned FireControl project labelled ‘worst government IT failure’ by MPs

The scrapped £469m FireControl project has been singled out by MPs as the worst government IT failure in many years.

The scrapped £469m FireControl project has been singled out by MPs as the worst government IT failure in many years.

Critics may point to this judgement as indicative of how serious the project's systemic flaws must have been, given the public sector's track record for troubled major IT programmes.

FireControl intended to abolish 46 local fire and rescue control rooms around the country and replace them with nine regional control centres. But the IT system was never delivered and eight of the centres remain vacant.

Around half a billion pounds has been lost to the taxpayer as a result of the project, which was cancelled in December 2010.

The contract to implement a national IT system linking the control centres was not even awarded until a full three years after the project started. The contract itself was poorly designed and awarded to a company without relevant experience. The computer system was never delivered, said Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee.

"No one has been held to account for this project failure, one of the worst we have seen for many years, and the careers of most of the senior staff responsible have carried on as if nothing had gone wrong at all and the consultants and contractor continue to work on many other government projects," she said.

The department now plans to spend a further £84.8m to secure the original objectives of FireControl, so there is a co-ordinated response to national incidents. But MPs have expressed concerns as to how a response to the threat of a large-scale incident would be co-ordinated under this system. "However, it is not clear to us how this extra spending will deliver value for money or achieve the objectives intended," said Hodge.

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