Bungled secret intelligence IT project needs major inquiry

The Cabinet Office has been criticised over the failure of a multimillion pound secret service IT project.

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The Cabinet Office has been criticised over the failure of a multimillion pound secret service IT project.

Call for Cabinet Office sackings over failed secret intelligence IT projectThe Scope project aimed to provide British spies and friendly foreign agents with intelligence data.

But the government last year suddenly abandoned the second phase of the scheme, under which intelligence data would be shared with other government departments. The reasons for the cancellation remain unknown.

Cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell, head of the Cabinet Office which is in charge of the project, had said in recent months that he knew "that the way they were planning to do [Phase II] won’t work", adding that the project would have to be redrawn.

The Cabinet Office is attempting to cancel the programme’s supplier contracts, a difficult move that is likely to result in heavy costs.

It could not provide immediate comment, and declined to disclose which IT suppliers were involved. IBM has been cited by the press as a rumoured lead supplier.

In a parliamentary debate last Thursday that saw some angry exchanges, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs called for an immediate public inquiry into the failures.

“This should be a matter for a major inquiry, and people should be sacked for it. It is a classic example of the culture in the country: the bigger the mess up, the greater the cost, and the higher the rank of the person who presided over the mess up, the greater the rewards,” said Andrew MacKinlay, Labour MP, during the debate.

O’Donnell would likely “be awarded a seat in the House of Lords” rather than being blamed for the failure of the project, MacKinlay claimed.

But home secretary Jacqui Smith defended the scrapping of the second phase. “We are very aware of the loss of any public funds, and especially at the current time,” she said.

“The decision to terminate the contract was not taken lightly - it was taken after detailed consideration and legal and technical advice."

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