Only 30% of government technology-based projects and programmes are successful, the official in charge of IT at one of its biggest departments has warned. Joe Harley, chief information officer at the Department for Work and Pensions, said current spending was not sustainable and the government needed to improve the quality of schemes while cutting costs.
The government has been criticised repeatedly for IT projects running over their budgets and timetables. The cost of running the HM Revenue and Customs’ IT system recently soared from £4.5bn to £8bn, while the public accounts committee last month said patients were unlikely to see significant clinical benefits from the £12.4bn NHS computer system by the time all the money has been spent in 2014. There is increasing anxiety over the ability to deliver the ID cards scheme.
He said public sector IT costs £14bn a year, equivalent to 75 hospitals. The government aims to cut costs by a fifth, particularly by targeting spending on desktops – which can cost £700 to £2,400 each.
“Today only 30%, we estimate, of our projects and programmes are successful. Why shouldn’t it be 90% successful?” he said in a speech to this week’s Government UK IT Summit, reported in Computer Weekly. “It’s about improving performance in projects and programmes and our day-to-day services as well as our procurement processes.” Predictable weaknesses such as inadequate requirements were often to blame.
MPs took a big step towards shielding themselves from freedom of information requests yesterday as a move to exempt Parliament from disclosure laws cleared the Commons at the second attempt.
Legislation to remove MPs and peers from the legal duty to release information on request now passes to the House of Lords, where it will be the subject of a presummer battle.
With signs of tacit support from the Government and Conservative front bench, it will need an alliance of Liberal Democrats, crossbenchers and backbench Labour and Tory peers to stop it.
Right-to-know campaigners reacted with dismay after the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act, which was presumed doomed after a handful of MPs talked it out in the Commons last month, was forced through by MPs after a classic parliamentary duel.
Maurice Frankel, of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, afterwards accused MPs of giving themselves protection they denied to those they represented and accused Ministers of secretly colluding with its Tory sponsor to let it pass.
“I cannot believe that a Government that is serious about freedom of information would have allowed that to happen,” Mr Frankel told The Times.
The UK is in danger of becoming less competitive because of its complex and uncertain tax regime, accountancy firm Ernst & Young has claimed in a report.
In a separate report, the CBI called on the government to get a “tighter grip” on spending to ease the tax burden.
The Tories said the CBI study was more evidence of a complicated tax system.
The issue of taxes has dogged the government in the past couple of years as critics questioned how Chancellor Gordon Brown would fund his spending plans.
The credibility of Tony Blair’s law and order policy hung by a thread last night as he tried to undo the damage caused by the prisons overcrowding crisis.
The Prime Minister was dragged into the Home Office controversy during a remarkable day when a succession of judges added their voices to the clamour about criminals escaping jail sentences.
The row was intensified by the resignation of the head of the Youth Justice Board who quit in protest at the Government’s “swamping” youth jails with too many inmates.
Britain’s answer to the FBI, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, is beset by “major problems” just ten months after it was created, it was claimed last night.
Soca, set up to combat high-level drug and people-traffickers, was said to be failing to take up the majority of the drugs cases referred to it by Customs.
Some officers are already seeking to leave to return to conventional police work, it was said, due to low morale and a perception that the organisation is “paralysed by bureaucracy”.
The government has overstated its successes on law and order since 1997, a study has claimed.
Billions spent on reform has brought no major improvement, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies says.
The study’s authors accused ministers of setting easy targets and taking credit for crime reduction trends unconnected to their policies.
The government has only a year to save the NHS and maintain its status as a free service funded by taxation, the leader of Britain’s 120,000 doctors warned yesterday.
James Johnson, chairman of the British Medical Association, said the period of record growth in the health budget was due to come to an end next year. If Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary, did not correct the “idiocy” of the competitive market she created in the NHS, there would be overwhelming pressure for fundamental reform.
Mr Johnson said: “If we get to the end of 2008 and we still cannot balance the books, ministers will want to look carefully at what they do next.”
That could mean restricting the range of services offered on the NHS, asking patients to contribute towards the cost, or slowing down the speed of treatment.
“The BMA believes in a tax-funded system, but other countries have [other] systems. When Alan Milburn talked about the NHS being in the last chance saloon, he was not talking out of his hat.
If we spend 9% of national income on the NHS and we can’t make it work, people will ask: do we need something fundamentally different?”