Audit Scotland (AS), a body that aims to hold government accountable for public sector spending north of the border, has said that Scotland is at ‘significant risk’ of not achieving value for money due to poor management of major ICT projects.
In its latest report, entitled ‘Managing ICT Contracts’, AS reviewed three recent major government ICT projects, where it found a number of significant failings.
For instance, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service had to cancel a £10 million project to implement a new case management system in 2010 due to increased costs, Disclosure Scotland continues to experience problems with a £31 million ICT system that went live in February 2011, whilst Registers for Scotland has terminated a £66 million partnership with BT due to it being ‘inappropriate’.
The report reads: “A key factor in the failure to deliver the programmes as intended was the public sector bodies’ lack of specialist skills and experience.
“This contributed to a lack of understanding about the complexity of the programmes and an over-reliance on the supplier for key decisions affecting the design and implementation of the necessary technology.”
It continues: “The Scottish Government was unable to provide the three public bodies with all the advice and support they sought.”
Consequently, AS recommends that Scottish Government assess the skills required for future central government ICT programmes and ensure these skills are accessible to public bodies.
In order to achieve this, it has called on government to conduct a review of the current availability of ICT skills to identify potential gaps and also to consider developing ‘centralised pools of expertise’ for use across central government bodies.
AS also highlighted that the three projects it reviewed are unlikely to be only ones Scotland’s government bodies are failing to deliver.
It said: “The Scottish Government should seek assurances from those central government bodies with ongoing significant ICT programmes that the issues raised in this report regarding weaknesses in management, are not also present in those programmes.”
In other news, it was recently revealed that SMEs currently win 78 percent of public sector contracts in Scotland, compared to just 13.7 percent from central government and 49 percent from local government in England.
Only 37 percent of Scotland’s turnover is accounted for by SMEs, but they account for 45 percent of Scotland’s £9bn procurement spend, which means that “SMEs in Scotland therefore have greater access to procurement spend than their significance in the wider economy”, according to a consultation document.