The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has criticised the Home Office for not ensuring that its programme to improve efficiency in the police through the use of mobile technology delivered the £125 million savings it had projected.
Despite giving police forces £71 million to buy more than 41,000 BlackBerrys and other mobile devices, to enable officers to spend more time on the beat and reduce paper work, just a “woeful £600,000” of savings – or 0.5 percent of expected savings – had been realised, according to the PAC chair.
“Not enough attention has been paid to outcomes. The programme was supposed to contribute £125 million to cashable savings by the police service. So far it has managed a woeful £600,000 – less than one percent of the public money spent on the scheme,” said MP Margaret Hodge.
“The Home Office focused more on providing the kit than on whether the benefits envisaged were actually being realised and by when. Neither the Home Office nor the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) know what the benefits have been and whether value for money has been achieved.”
She added: “Although some forces have used the devices to improve efficiency, most have not. And, although most forces reported that the devices allowed officers to spend more time out of the station, some said that using the devices actually led officers to spend more time in the station.
“The department and agency does not know why.”
Even the distribution of mobile devices to officers has been “haphazard”, said Hodge, with some police forces having no devices and others having one for each officer and their support staff.
The PAC found that despite there being a central contract with Vodafone for buying devices, most forces chose not to use it, which Hodge said could be due to a lack of guidance from the Home Office.
“The Home Office is setting up a new company to manage IT for the police. Given that some forces told us that they achieved better deals locally, the department needs to put in place clear guidance about what must be bought centrally, and why,” said Hodge.
The Mobile Information Programme, which ran between 2008 and 2010, was funded by central government through the NPIA. The agency, which is due to close this year, estimates that £1.5 billion is spent each year on police ICT, which represents 10 percent of total annual spend on policing.
Yesterday, the Home Office was slammed by the Home Affairs Committee for its failure to deliver the e-Borders programme in a timely manner, in order to deliver cost savings.