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Scottish police’s i6 project failed due to loss of trust and disagreements, auditor finds

Police Scotland’s IT systems replacement programme failed because of loss of trust and underestimation of its complexities, according to an Audit Scotland investigation

The failure of Police Scotland’s i6 programme to deliver an integrated IT system was caused by “loss of trust” between Accenture and the police, an Audit Scotland report has found.

In 2013, Accenture won the £40m contract to join up more than 100 legacy systems and deliver a new operational policing system as part of the Scottish Police Authority’s (SPA) wider IT strategy. 

But in July last year, Accenture, the SPA and Police Scotland mutually agreed to terminate the contract after a review found it would be impossible to deliver the system on time and on budget. 

As part of the contract termination, the SPA secured a £24.65m settlement agreement, in which Accenture refunded the £11.09m the police had already paid, and made an additional payment of £13.56m.

A subsequent review of the programme by Audit Scotland, published today (9 March), found that the project “ultimately collapsed due to a damaging loss of trust between those involved and fundamental disagreements about what the programme needed to deliver”.  

Although “good practice” was followed during the procurement of the programme, it soon ran into problems, Audit Scotland said.

“Within weeks of starting the high-level design phase in July 2013, there was a difference in opinion about the search function within i6,” the report said.

“The i6 programme team believed that the functionality of Accenture’s solution did not meet the requirements it had agreed in the contract. Accenture maintained that Police Scotland had not specified a detailed description of business requirements.”

This disagreement led to a loss of trust and the i6 programme board began to hold closed sessions, to which Accenture was not invited.

The design of i6 was based on the system Accenture had provided to Spain’s Guardia Civil. However, it became clear that Scotland required a more complex and bespoke system.

The auditor said Accenture had “underestimated the complexity” of the programme, as well as the resources needed.

The parties came to a contract variation agreement in spring 2014, “which amended specific elements of the original contract, including a revised delivery and milestone plan”, the report said.

“Accenture agreed to amend its proposed IT system to address all of the gaps that had been identified and to deliver the requirements within the fixed price.”

In the summer of 2015, the system went into user-acceptance testing, where several defects were found, but Police Scotland and Accenture could not agree on how important the defects were.

Critical errors

Police Scotland chief superintendent Hamish Macpherson told a Scottish justice sub-committee in February 2016 that, at one point, there were “12 critical errors in the system – errors that stop one progressing through the system”. 

“At that point, the supplier was struggling to get rid of the errors. As they fixed one, another error was produced,” he said.

The report added: “The relationship between the organisations was extremely fragile at this time, with a lack of trust and frustration on both sides.”

Accenture told the police in December 2015 that the additional work required would take an extra 30 months, which meant a go-live date of April 2018, but Police Scotland rejected this proposal.

This led to further commercial renegotiations, ultimately leading to the termination of the contract.

“The failure of the i6 programme means that some of the benefits of police reform that should have arisen from implementing it have been, at best, delayed,” the report said.

“There is an urgent need for the SPA and Police Scotland to determine what the next steps should be, and to carry out an honest assessment of how to procure, develop and deliver the much-needed police IT system.”

Audit Scotland also plans to produce a wider report later this year on lessons learned from Scottish public sector IT projects.

SPA chief executive John Foley said he welcomed the report, and said there was now a “stronger SPA strategic oversight of change programmes”.

“While policing has no plans to embark again on a single ICT programme as complex and besoke as i6, there have been a number of improvements made in the last four years that provide greater assurance going forward,” he said.

Foley said there were “lessons to learn across the public sector on large ICT projects”, adding: “Developing effective ICT solutions to transform corporate services and improve operational productivity is central to our long-term strategy, and we will ensure that any further lessons are considered before implementation plans are finalised.”

Commenting on the report, an Accenture spokesperson said: "As the report acknowledges, the scope and the complexity of the solution for i6 increased significantly during the project.  This was driven by the client.  There were challenges and issues on both sides, but we worked closely with Police Scotland to review the programme and recommend revised plans to successfully deliver i6. Despite our best efforts, it was not possible to agree the necessary changes and we mutually agreed to end the project."

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