Thursday, 7 November 2013

Thus spake PAC on Universal chaos and waste

"...the Department lacked an overarching business transformation strategy, and focused its effort on the programme's IT aspects. The failure to develop a comprehensive plan which will deliver these important changes has led to substantial nugatory expenditure which has yet to be finally determined and extensive delays in the implementation of the programme. 
 The Department accepts that timescales have slipped and that value has not been secured from the X million[s] invested so far. There has been a shocking absence of financial and other internal controls and we are not yet convinced that the Department has robust plans to overcome the problems that have impeded progress. Our recommendations are designed to help get the programme back on track. In particular the Department needs a robust plan on how to transform its business and what is required from the new IT systems it intends to use to support the transformation. If the Department is to secure the benefits it seeks, the new IT capabilities must enable more online operations, must address fraud risks, and result in a system capable of handling the real-world complexities of [key users] circumstances. The Department must be realistic and transparent about its expected costs and timescales, and the milestones against which we can hold it to account. We believe strongly that meeting any specific timetable from now on is less important than delivering the programme successfully."
It's highly likely that a high proportion of the millions invested will have to be written off. Without even getting beyond the summary, it isn't hard to ask "aren't these the basics of PRINCE2 and MSP?"  However, how many other projects could the same narrative apply to with a little 'cut and paste'?

But just in case you thought this was all the fault of IT strategists and policy wonks;  procurement were also named and shamed:

"There has been a shocking absence of control over suppliers with the Department neglecting to implement basic procedures for monitoring and authorising expenditure. We saw evidence that purchase orders with a total value of £8.7 million were approved by a personal assistant to the Programme Director. In another case, two purchase orders, one for £22.6 million and one for £1.1 million, were approved by a personal assistant to the Programme Director whose delegated financial authority at the time of approvals was only £10 million. When the Department made individual payments to suppliers these could not be linked to particular pieces of work that had been delivered. Some of the IT assets that have been delivered cannot be used in the programme and so must be written-off; whilst initial estimates suggest the write-offs could amount to at least £140 million, we heard evidence that the precise extent is as yet unknown because the Department's impairment review is not yet complete, relying so far on supplier self-assessment."
The words of one hymn and one song come to mind: 'Tell me the old, old story' and 'When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?'


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