Examination of Witnesses (Questions 500-516)|
WEDNESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2002
500. But you are saying that from the lessons
learnt, what the Government ought to have done was got alongside
you, or they do need to look at, something out there like a company
or a tenderer, some organisation providing them with educational
expertise, additional to anything that they had in this round?
(Ms Metcalf) Yes. They let a contract for the operation
and administration of the ILA service, to us. They did not let
a contract to us for us to make any judgement on the educational
content, because it was an administrations contract for which
501. If I look down the rest of the list of
lessons learned, again in line with the Chairman's comment originally
about "It's not our responsibility", we then go on to
the "Authentication of an individual's existence". Was
that part of your contract, or would that have been somebody else's?
(Ms Metcalf) The issue of self-certification of membershipie
not to have proof of an individual's existencewas one of
those amendments which was introduced in May 2000, so that it
was no longer deemed necessary for people to provide additional
documentation to prove they existed.
502. Sorry, let me deal with that. That was
in May 2000, at the very time you said you were first getting
your real concerns about what was happening in the scheme?
(Ms Metcalf) Sorry, Chairman, May 2000, prior to the
ILA going live. In point of fact, as the scheme developed and
problems arose, it was in September 2001 when we were talking
about the withdrawal of the non-personalised application form
to make more emphasis on the individual telephoning and contacting.
That was a proposal which was accepted and introduced by the Department.
503. It would take rather a long time, I think,
to go through the list, but by the time we get to the last page
we are at last talking about "A review of the computer system",
which I think you have quite clearly said is under your remit,
"and business process requirements to balance speed and openness
of access with probity and control". Are you able to tell
us, in the review of that computer system, how you would now improve
(Ms Metcalf) I think it might be more appropriate
for Simon to deal with this.
(Mr Pilling) In relation to what we have heard today,
we would assume that the learning providers are not in that bona
fide group, so we would be looking at how can we handle the
account number processing, we would look again at the usage of
the system and the system monitoring, who is actually coming into
the system, on a much more regular and frequent basis, and provide
that information obviously to ourselves and to the DfES so we
have a more rapid route to identify issues as they are happening.
504. As far as you are concerned, is the contract
with the DfES still live, or has it been terminated?
(Mr Doyle) It is suspended.
505. What about the information that you hold
on behalf of the DfES? Do you still hold that information, or
have you wiped it all clean, as it were, and passed it to the
(Mr Doyle) We are still carrying out some work, so
there are still calls coming in to the call centre, there is still
some processing taking place, there is still an element of work
to be carried on and we are carrying on that work.
506. As if the contract were not suspended?
(Ms Metcalf) On a much smaller scale. There were courses
booked prior to the scheme being suspended that then would be
commencing, and those commencements are still valid, therefore
that process of going through that exercise is still continuing.
507. I do not think the witnesses heard the
question about the data.
(Ms Metcalf) The data is obviously still there and
508. It is still there and accessible?
(Ms Metcalf) Yes.
(Mr Doyle) Yes.
509. Why should somebody from the Department
have written to learning providers to say, "We are still
unable to reopen access to the ILA website"? Why should a
learning provider say, "We have been
allowed a brief one-day visit to the ILA website
to access information with regard to our students' details and
status. It was only by chance that we realised that we could access
(Ms Metcalf) I am sorry, when I said
"accessible" I thought you meant to the Department.
It is accessible to the Department, not to the providers and the
510. So how come the second provider is able
to say, "It was only by chance that we realised that we could
access our information" and that they were allowed a brief
one-day visit to the ILA website?
(Ms Metcalf) I am sorry, I do not know the timing
Mr Turner: Again, it is 11 weeks since the sudden
shutdown of the ILA scheme. I cannot do the arithmetic in my head,
but it means quite recently, does it not?
511. Can you check on that?
(Mr Doyle) Again, I would like to check, yes.
512. Mr Doyle, I know you are enjoying this,
and I think we are going to have to have you back again, but can
we conclude this morning, as time is going on, by my asking you,
what do you think the Government got for its money from your contract,
what was the guts of what they got from it?
(Mr Doyle) I think it got them out of a system in
a reasonably short space of time. It got the system up and running.
It allowed ILAs actually to be in place, and it allowed the scheme
to evolve and be as successful as it has. Again, as I said earlier,
todayand quite rightly sowe are concentrating on
the elements of seeing what went wrong, but there was an awful
lot that went right, and I think it would be very sad for us to
513. Of course, but how much has it cost the
Government so far?
(Mr Doyle) To date?
514. How much capital have you received from
the Government for running the scheme to date?
(Mr Doyle) Do we have that number? We do not have
515. Is it £50 million or less than £50
(Mr Doyle) No, the £50 million is over five years.
516. It was not clear from your earlier answers,
was that number being pushed up because it was a much larger scheme
(Mr Doyle) It will have gone up, but it will not have
gone up pro rata, so to speak.
Chairman: We are hoping that you will be able
to come back another day. You do not have to be exactly the same
team, but the relevant team. Thank you very much for answering
our questions. We have learnt a lot, but there are some other
things which we would like to probe. Thank you very much for your
3 See supplementary memorandum 27 February 2002. Back