The government’s plan to root out waste and failure in official IT projects is too vague for MPs to be able to assess whether it is achieving its objectives, a report from Westminster’s spending watchdog warned today.
After years of expensive computer flops at government bodies including the NHS, Child Support Agency and Rural Payments Agency, the Cabinet Office announced in March that it was taking steps to ensure it did things better in future.
The government’s ICT strategy set out plans to streamline procurement, remove excess capacity, use new central controls to ensure consistency and integration of systems, and create a comprehensive asset register and cross-public sector apps store.
In future, there will be a presumption against projects with a lifetime cost of more than £100m and officials in charge will be expected to stay in post long enough to suffer the consequences if projects fail to deliver.
The influential Commons public accounts committee today welcomed “the direction and principles” of the new strategy.
But committee chairman Margaret Hodge added: “It is hugely ambitious and lacks detail about how it will be delivered.
“The strategy lacks a proper baseline from which progress can be measured. Simply listing actions to be achieved within two years is not good enough.”
In particular, the cross-party committee raised “serious concerns” about a lack of detail on the government’s approach to cyber-security, which it said would become ever more important as more official functions move online.
And it said that the government’s Efficiency and Reform Group had only a small team of experts to keep on top of more than 50 major projects.
An implementation plan due to be published by the Cabinet Office in August must include “clear indicators that can be used by this committee to evaluate the success of the strategy and whether it is delivering good value for money”, said Ms Hodge.