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July 2011 | Adam Leach
UK government’s “woefully inadequate” approach to purchasing IT led to an
average cost of £3,500 for PC desktops, a report has found.
a candid evaluation of IT procurement in central government, the Public Administration Select Committee concluded
a range of inadequacies, such as insufficient data on spending and a lack of IT
expertise, has cooked up a “recipe for rip-offs”.
heard truly worrying accounts about the amount of money successive governments
have wasted on failed IT projects,” said committee chairman Bernard Jenkin. “According
to some sources, the government pays between seven and 10 times more than the
standard commercial rate. However, it does not collect the information needed
to verify these claims.”
report outlined a number of key failings. Poor quality of data on IT prices and
needs was blamed for ineffective benchmarking, while commissioned projects were
viewed as too large and complex for the skill levels in place. The government
was also criticised for relying too heavily on a small group of suppliers, failing
to include IT as a factor in broader organisational reforms, and
over-specifying security requirements.
advice on how best to move forward, the committee called on government to make
a number of reforms. It specified that better data on how much is spent on IT
across government should be collected to allow for more accurate benchmarking, while
details on what systems are intended for should be published publically to
enable external parties to assess whether the proposals make sense. The committee
also recommended a broadening of the supply chain, ending government’s record
of relying on a so-called “cartel of suppliers”, along with an improvement of
IT skills and expertise to enable value-for-money contracts for effective technology
projects to be secured.
address these challenges successfully, the government needs to possess the
necessary skills and knowledge in-house, to manage suppliers and understand the
potential IT has to transform the services it delivers,” said Jenkin. “Currently,
the outsourcing of the government’s whole IT service means that many civil
service staff, along with their knowledge, skills, networks and infrastructure,
have been transferred to suppliers. The government needs to rebuild this