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Central resource could help public sector, says watchdog

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Audit Scotland is calling on the Scottish government to consider providing a central resource of specialised ICT expertise and advice for public bodies.

In a report on delays and cost overruns in three public sector ICT projects, the auditor urged the government to conduct a strategic review of current ICT skills within departments to identify gaps and develop actions to address these.

Audit Scotland says that the number of ICT staff in central government has reduced in recent years, and the Scottish government should compare the costs and benefits of investing in skills centrally, against the risks of failing to deliver ICT programmes because individual government bodies lack appropriate skills.

It says that the government also needs to comprehensively review how it can best support and oversee public bodies undertaking significant ICT programmes.

Audit Scotland also wants senior managers and boards in all central government department to ensure that effective governance and risk management arrangements are in place and are being complied with.

It says they must make sure that project management frameworks are being followed, that robust performance management arrangements have been developed and appropriate progress reporting is taking place.

In addition, detailed skills assessments must be completed and managers must make sure that all staff have the necessary skills and experience for their roles.

The three troubled programmes scrutinised in the report were:

  • The £10m Phoenix case management programme at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. The system was initiated in early 2009, but after £2.3m of expenditure it was terminated in 2010 due to increased costs and reduced capital budget.
  • An ICT system to check and issue disclosure certificates for the £31m Protecting Vulnerable Groups programme at Disclosure Scotland. It is expected to be delivered within budget, but 18 months later than planned.
  • The Registers of Scotland, a project originally valued at £66m, but which has cost £112m so far.

Caroline Gardner, the auditor general for Scotland, said: The Scottish government needs to address these weaknesses and strengthen its strategic oversight of ICT investment to ensure the public sector delivers programmes that improve public services and provide value for money."

This article was originally published at Government Computing.

Government Computing covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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