Prisons, probation service and courts struggle to rescue major IT projects

The Ministry of Justice has said it is taking action on three large IT projects to bring them back on track after problems during their rollout had a “significant” impact on prisons, the probation service and law courts.


The Ministry of Justice has said it is taking action to bring three large IT projects back on track after problems during their rollout had a “significant” impact on prisons, the probation service and law courts.

The same day the MoJ disclosed it had lost the personal records of 45,000 people on laptops, paper and external storage devices, it said it had appointed new project and change managers on struggling IT projects to turn them around.

For a major offender tracking system known as C-NOMIS, the MoJ appointed programme and finance managers, as well as a senior responsible officer “with an IT delivery background”. The programme was scaled back dramatically earlier this year following an MoJ review, which said the system would not meet its time, cost or quality objectives.

In a statement to Computerworld UK, an MoJ spokesperson said the department was “committed to continuing the successful implementation of the offender management model, and to ensuring that offender managers have access to the necessary information to allow them to effectively manage offenders within custody and in the community”.

The revised programme would provide better information sharing and offender assessment systems, he said, adding that it demonstrated the MoJ’s commitment to “replace unstable, at-risk IT systems across the probation and prison services”.

In the prison service, a dedicated version of the system called Prison NOMIS will be rolled out beyond the three prisons already using it, replacing the existing LIDS case management system and improving efficiency.

Within the probation service, he said, "a programme of work will begin to replace those case management systems which are most at-risk in the short term with a system (Delius) already successfully in use in the two largest probation areas, and then to address the technical, assistive technology and ergonomic problems with the legacy system (CRAMS) that most areas now use,” he said.

Separately, the much-delayed £442 million Libra case management system for law courts remains on track to go live at the end of the year, the MoJ said.

The delivery target was revised last year, after supplier delays occurred and the MoJ said it was necessary to rewrite functionality in the system. A year ago it had only been rolled out to one in eight courts.

The Ministry of Justice said the courts still experienced some problems with the system in recent months. “Given the scale of the implementation and technical issues with performance, implementation has led to courts experiencing slowness and downtime”, it said, making it hard for courts to hit their performance targets.

It said the technical issues had now been “largely resolved”, and performance has been stabilised.

Lastly, an interim IT change director has been appointed to manage an off-the-shelf supplier management system, which was taken offline after large user numbers meant the system experienced problems. “Although on launch the SMS [supplier management system] operated well with low user levels, problems arose as the users increased, and as a result was withdrawn for external users,” it said.

The MoJ had taken the off-the-shelf option instead of paying for a bespoke system in order to “control costs and speed delivery”, but it admitted that risk and cost had instead been increased because of a decision to procure “before the scope of the schemes and processes had been settled”.

Under chief information officer Yvonne Gallagher, the MoJ’s total expenditure on ongoing programmes for the 12 months to June included £301.3 million on IT services, and £82 million on electronic monitoring of offenders. It also spent £13.3 million on IT services for general processes that were not part of specific programmes.

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