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