Report criticises government IT buying

18 February 2011

18 February 2011 | Lindsay Clark

The UK government has bought IT infrastructure without knowing what it was already using, a report from the National Audit Office (NAO) found.

The study, published yesterday, describes the challenges facing the public sector in improving IT procurement, particularly in regard to infrastructure – such as operating systems, networks and databases.

“While every government body spends a significant percentage of its budget on basic ICT infrastructure, each has largely entered into procurements without taking account of what government already owned,” the report said. “This has led to an accumulation of duplicated assets. For example, the Cabinet Office reported government had 220 data centres available but, on average, only 7 per cent of this capacity was used.”

The NAO study is designed to set the ground for future evaluations of government efforts to improve IT buying and management. It will act as a benchmark against which to measure the progress of actions taken by the Cabinet Office’s Efficiencyand Reform Group (ERG).

The ERG has issued a moratorium on central government signing new IT contracts of more than £1 million without Cabinet Office agreement; started a mandatory review of all ICT projects that are currently under way; and led the renegotiation of contracts with top suppliers.

Lengthy procurement cycles and rigidly defined development methods, combined with a lack of strategic supplier management have also been cited as some of the causes of failure, the NAO said.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “Government is knowledge-intensive. Effective information and sound ICT strategies go hand-in-hand. We will take a strong interest in future in how government is making the most of ICT to secure efficiencies and make possible new ways of delivering public services.”

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