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NAO slaps down Cabinet Office gov-IT savings claims AGAIN

Efficiency and Reform Group isn't that efficient, should reform its ways

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There are lies, damned lies and Cabinet Office statistics which give the impression that the Efficiency and Reform Group are achieving much more dramatic ICT savings than they actually are.

Or so says a National Audit Office report, which again criticised the processes used to calculate how much money Government Digital Services actually spared the taxpayer during fiscal '14 ending March.

The spending watchdog found that Government Digital Services saved £91m in the last financial year. This was less than the Cabinet Office had initially claimed.

GDS operates spending control on certain types of ICT at the business case stage, curbing departmental investment at £5m and digital projects at £100k unless specific approval is sought and agreed.

GDS calculates savings based on cases where it directly "enforces" a change in a project's scope, which cancels or reduces costs. It then compares the revised and approved forecast to the original spend estimates submitted for approval.

"The evidence for savings is hard to follow," said the NAO, "There was uncertainty over some numbers with aspects of the cases still being removed or evidenced well past year-end".

This is the same criticism levelled at the Cabinet Office for fiscal '11/12 when the NAO tore up almost half of the savings claims made by the Cabinet Office due to weaknesses in the data.

The NAO said this time round GDS must ensure it "gathers sufficient robust evidence to support savings claims", because in "many cases, GDS did not calculate savings correctly in accordance with the guidance and method".

It added that in some instances not all relevant costs were included and the Cabinet Office should have learnt from previous mistakes.

"Since the data and the process are entirely within Cabinet Office, GDS could have made more progress to resolve them," the NAO stated.

The NAO did not detail the extent of the drop but claimed "internal audits identified several errors in the calculation of savings which were removed from the final saving".

The NAO did not respond to calls for comment at the time of writing, and we are still waiting to hear from the Cabinet Office. ®

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