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24 July 2013 | Adam Leach
A failed government project to create a national network of control centres for the fire service that has already wasted £482 million is putting further taxpayer money in jeopardy.
FiReControl: Update report, published yesterday by the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC), criticised plans by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for relying too heavily on local projects.
The original FiReControl project, which cost £482 million, failed largely because it did not account for local needs enough, but the committee believes revised plans, which have received a further £82 million to fund 22 separate local projects, have gone too far the other way, with local teams unlikely to possess the required commercial skills to ensure value.
Margaret Hodge, chairman of the committee and Labour MP, said: “Relying on multiple local projects risks value for money. We are not confident that local teams have the right IT and procurement skills to get good deals from suppliers and to monitor contracts effectively. There is a risk that the DCLG has swung from an overly prescriptive national approach to one that does not provide enough national oversight and coordination and fails to meet national needs or achieve economies of scale.”
The committee called for the department to set out how the new plans would meet both local and national needs, both in terms of operation and efficiency. It also called for it to challenge local project teams on costs more, where appropriate.
The DCLG rejected the claim that the revised plans will end up wasting further public money. A spokesman said: “The programme is now on schedule and on budget and will produce £126 million savings for taxpayers by 2021-22. The PAC reports fails to take these factors into account and many of the conclusions that the report draws are not supported by evidence."