The coalition government’s IT strategy, introduced in March, lacks any proper delivery plan or a baseline against which progress can be effectively measured.
That is according to the powerful Public Accounts Committee, which said in a report published today that it had “serious concerns” about the strategy.
When the coalition came to power, it seized the opportunity to attack the outgoing Labour government’s IT credentials, and stated it would abandon the concept of large IT projects as well as start to bring in smaller suppliers to the bidding process. The PAC welcomed those ideas, but said more details were needed on how they would be achieved.
The PAC said it was “not the first time” that a government had set out to improve services and cut costs with IT, and added that success will depend on “greater rates of adoption of technology” as well as a “cultural shift” among civil servants.
“The strategy is ambitious, with some 30 actions to be delivered in just 24 months,” the PAC said. “However it lacks quantitative targets, or a baseline of current performance, which will make it difficult to measure success.” The government is due to publish an implementation plan next month.
The government has “not yet assessed” the size of its existing IT workforce, or the number of people and skills required to deliver the strategy, the PAC noted. It was also unable to state how many large projects it was monitoring.
Other areas of concern include a lack of detail about cyber security, which the PAC said was “worrying", given the "drive for more government services to move online”.
“Ultimately, success [in government IT] will be shown when complex change programmes like the Department for Work and Pension’s Universal Credit are delivered on time and to budget, and the committee sees fewer critical NAO reports on projects like the NHS Programme for IT and the Rural Payments Agency’s Single Payment Scheme,” it said.
The PAC said the government needed to deal with the problem of Senior Responsible Owners on projects not having enough experience, or enough time to devote on a project.
In a hearing last month on the failed £11.7 billion NHS National Programme for IT, the PAC asked project owner Sir David Nicholson – also NHS chief executive – how much time he spent on the project in a typical week. He was unable to answer.