MPs want openness on government IT

The truth? You can't handle the truth

Government IT projects are missing crucial stages of feasibility studies and 70 individual Whitehall projects have been warned they are likely to fail.

But despite the problems, the Office of Government Commerce, the watchdog for government spending, is resisting pressure to make the relevant reports public. Perhaps the reports make such ugly reading that the British public would be too upset by the gross wasting of public money.

The Public Accounts Committee wants the reports published and all projects to go through all stages of Gateway Review, unless the OGC agrees they can skip them. The committee believes the Treasury should have the power to withold funding for projects which "consistently ignore stages of the Gateway process."

Recent highlights of the government's IT programme include the tax credit scheme which overpaid the poorest families in Britain by almost £2bn - money which is now being extracted from those same families - ongoing problems at the Inland Revenue, the Child Support Agency, MI5 and the NHS. And we haven't even started on the ID card database. British taxpayers will pay €20.1bn on public sector IT projects in 2005 - 40 per cent higher than Germany or France.

The Public Accounts Committee report says a third of all projects missed the first two stages of evaluation under the Gateway review programme, designed to avoid further IT disasters. The stages include considering whether projects are "feasible, affordable and likely to achieve the value for money." Reg readers won't be surprised to hear that the ID card dream was considered under these principles... and the OGC refused to release any information.

Projects are rated with red, amber or green lights. Red lights were awarded to 70 projects meaning the project team needs to take immediate action to safeguard the project. Another 127 government projects got amber warnings indicating action needed to be taken before the next review, and 57 projects got the green light.

Really bad projects get a "double red warning" and the OGC writes to the relevant permanent secretary.

The government's best practice guidelines - "Successful Delivery Toolkit" - is also criticised as difficult to use, confusing and contradictory. The report also notes that government departments could make better use of the resources available to them.

More details on the PAC website here.®

Related stories

UK Inland Revenue may sue EDS
Soaring card cost headlines threaten UK ID scheme
Firemen challenge £31m planned IT bill
UK eGov projects drive Europe's public IT spend
UK's tax computers go back to the future

Sponsored: Today’s most dangerous security threats