Margaret Hodge, chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, strongly criticised the new IT strategy over the lack of baseline to monitor its success and the issue of cyber security seemingly being side stepped.
Her committee’s report welcomed ‘the direction and principles” of the strategy, but pointed out that a government promising improved IT results for all concerned (businesses and individuals), and a huge reduction in operating costs, was not a new thing.
Hodge was adamant that the Committee had to be able to evaluate the strategy’s success and value for money. Or, quite simply, the coalition government has to try harder.
As the report said: “Success will depend on greater rates of adoption of technology, and a cultural shift to encourage genuinely different ways of working in the civil service that will stimulate behaviour change by suppliers.”
Some MPs are cautious. 30 actions in two years appears “ambitious”, particularly following the NHS computer system, FIRecontrol (costing hundreds of millions), and the farmers’ Single Payments System.
“We look forward to the publication of the implementation plan in August 2011, which we expect will include milestones on which we can hold government to account.”
The plan is for the Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG) to step in and micro-manage specific projects within a business, if necessary. Smaller business suppliers are to be encouraged to increase input and re-direct designing services around the customer.
The ERG has “only a small team of experts to keep on top of 50 major projects” and lacks information about IT and cyber security expertise within the Civil Service. Hodge’s worries appear justified.