Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
MONDAY 12 NOVEMBER 2001
GIEVE CB, MS
40. The Home Office were not even aware of what
was going on. They were not even aware of the fiasco until the
National Audit Office pointed it out to them. You did not know
what the costs were, the scheme had not been reviewed, you did
not know what the achievements were, you did not know whether
there were any achievements. You did not have a clue in the Home
Office until the National Audit Office came in when you realised
what was going on.
(Mr Gieve) No.
41. It says so in the report.
(Mr Gieve) The whole Probation Service was aware of
the difficulties with CRAMS and the importance of the IT system.
It is true that only the joint inspectorate/NAO report which preceded
this brought the whole picture to the surface of how the thing
had developed over the years. Certainly the people working in
the Probation Service were very well aware of the problems.
42. Here is the Probation Service. They cannot
use the system, they were spending a million pound developing
their own schemes because this scheme did not work. Did it never
(Mr Gieve) Did what click?
43. That it was not working, it was no good.
(Mr Gieve) Yes, of course it clicked.
44. It did not click terribly well.
(Mr Gieve) When you look at the history of this all
the way through there were constant reviews and stops and people
asking for this to be sorted out. This happened all the way along.
Looking back on it, we were not successful. We made CRAMS an easier
system to operate but not a good enough one for people to adopt
45. Why was the Probation Service not more forthcoming,
why did they not make stronger representations to the Home Office?
(Ms Wallis) Again one has to go back to how the service
was at that time. The service at that time was not a national
service. There were 54 quasi-autonomous probation services operating
out there. Whatever the policy under review or consideration at
the time, there was very little consensus ever. Services tended
very much to plough their own furrow. Small groups would sometimes
get together. It was a very mixed view across those probation
services. Some did actually express their views and did make that
46. Were they ignored?
(Ms Wallis) No, they were listened to and sometimes
they were agreed with, sometimes they were not. A number of services
did actually provide people who tried to work closely with Bull
and with the Home Office to try to effect redesign, to create
change. A lot of people did continue to try to make this work.
47. It is incredible, is it not, that even when
the department realised that the contract with Bull was illegal
and they placed no new orders after February 2000, we have been
told that prevented further research into the provision of e-mail
and Internet. Even though this was now not possible because the
contract with Bull had been stopped at that stage, you were not
developing it during that time. I just find that incredible.
(Mr Crade) It was not developed at that time. We did
have discussions with the Home Office about moving to that technology,
but it was not developed at the time; it was not taken forward,
largely because it was difficult for the Home Office to place
new purchase orders to us under the contract, having taken legal
48. That is not really the question. The question
I am asking is why it was that even at the year 2000, when the
contract was stopped the excuse from Bull is that they could not
then develop the Internet and develop the e-mail? What I am saying
is why had you not been developing that all along whilst the contract
was in being? You would have thought that would have been a basic
thing to do.
(Mr Crade) There was a question of priorities. We
agreed with the Home Office and probation services what was to
be done. The latest refresh of the technology had been done as
part of the Year 2000 work. We took the advantage of doing the
Year 2000 work to do some refreshment of the infrastructure but
external e-mail was not viewed as a high priority at the time.
49. Could you say whether you think there is
something about the Home Office that makes management of IT projects
more difficult than elsewhere in government? You had the passport
fiasco, you had the immigration and nationality directorate problems
and now you have this. We had Professor Likierman last week telling
us about the implementation of resource accounting and how he
was particularly concerned about your department. Is it something
about your department which makes management of it difficult,
or is it something about the managers?
(Mr Gieve) I do not think we can claim we have peculiar
difficulties compared with the rest of Whitehall. I was looking
at the PAC report on IT projects which had gone wrong and even
in that the Home Office did not stand out; there seemed to be
a lot of examples around government. Like the rest of government,
we have had to learn some fairly painful lessons over IT management
and contracting out over the last ten years. You are absolutely
right, those lessons have been drawn out by this Committee, they
have been drawn out by the Cabinet Office report and by OGC guidelines.
I hope that our management is now in a fit state to avoid making
the same mistakes again.
50. The things you mentioned earlier about clarity
of ownership, of objectives, of outcomes and having those both
through the letting of the contract and subsequently the implementation
are not new though, are they? I am not sure which Cabinet Office
report you are referring to. Are you referring to the 1994 one?
(Mr Gieve) I was referring to the 2000 one.
51. There was a 1994 Cabinet Office report which
said, when talking about the use of external consultants, that
to maximise ownership and accountability, the same individual
where possible will often see the project through from inception
to implementation. Yet, as we have already heard, you have had
seven programme directors, five of whom knew nothing about IT
procurement. Do you not find that absolutely extraordinary?
(Mr Gieve) I do find seven in seven years pretty extraordinary,
although I can understand how it happened. The whole team did
not change over in that time.
52. There was a very significant turnover of
the team as well, as the NAO report points out. It was at both
levels, was it not? The programme directors changing every five
minutes and lots of people on the staff of the project team changing;
(Mr Gieve) Certainly, yes. I was looking upwards rather
than downwards, in terms of the head of the Probation Service.
Yes, I am sure it was not desired or planned by the Home Office
that we had that rapid turnover and it must have been damaging.
53. You say you understand why it happened.
Can you explain a little more why you think it happened, because
it does not happen quite so much in the private sector where sponsorship
of these sorts of projects tends to be at a high level.
(Mr Gieve) What must have happened here, going back
a few years to 1997, was that a number of people were brought
in essentially as emergency cover and did not stick. One head
of information was in charge from 1993 to 1997 and then there
were five in very rapid succession after that. I know where they
have all gone, but I do not know why they all left so quickly.
54. What I was really asking was whether there
is something about the way the Civil Service manages itself and
moves people on that is inimical to good project management. I
asked that question of Peter Gershon when he addressed this Committee
a few weeks ago and he said yes, there is something wrong with
the way the Civil Service pushes people around in terms of aiding
good project management. Would you agree with that?
(Mr Gieve) It is a patchy picture, but I know what
he is talking about because I have talked to him about it too.
Particularly in the Civil Service headquarters there tend to be
rewards for having breadth of knowledge rather than specialist
knowledge and we tend to promote people into wider and wider commands.
What that means is that it is quite difficult to keep people focused
on a relatively narrow objective for many years. That is a problem.
It is a big problem for me and for other people running Civil
55. You were getting warning bells in this particular
project from way back. The probation officers were saying as far
back as 1994 that the thing was not working. Paragraph 2.22 tells
us that the CCTA drew attention to the need to do more to communicate
with probation services. "However, no further action was
taken to introduce a communications strategy." Why not?
(Mr Gieve) First of all, we should have done. If you
ask me why it did not happen, this was at the point at which we
were trying to operate a decentralised system. Remember at this
stage it was not a National Probation Service, it was a decentralised
service under the control of local government essentially, local
boards. The move after that was to try to give greater ownership
to that set of local services rather than to take command more
in the centre and then sell it through the country, but it did
56. May I draw your attention to paragraph 19
of the executive summary on page 7? It talks about the PRINCE
2 project management methodology, which was used for the project,
at least from 1996. It says that it did not include a project
assurance function, which is part of PRINCE 2. Could you say why
it did not include a project assurance function?
(Mr Gieve) It says further on in the report that we
expected the project assurance function to be undertaken as required
in the field by the people taking delivery of the system. This
has actually been a problem more widely in government if the truth
be known and this is something which the OGC system of gateway
and post-implementation reviews is intended to address right across
government and certainly within the Home Office.
57. This paragraph goes on to say, ". .
. formal project management methods were not embedded firmly in
working practices and they fell into disuse". What is the
point in saying, as apparently happened in 1996, that you were
going to run this project using the PRINCE 2 project management
methodology, if you then take no notice of what that methodology
(Mr Gieve) Clearly they should have continued on PRINCE
2 methodology. I am not going to make excuses for it.
58. You mentioned the PAC report earlier on
IT projects in government going wrong. Right in the opening pages
summarising the conclusions of that report it stresses the need
for top management to take IT projects, their delivery, implementation
and conclusion much much more seriously. What have you done since
you took over at the Home Office to give effect to that in terms
of the way you run your department?
(Mr Gieve) As soon as I arrived at the Home Office
I formed executive boards, which there had not been before, at
group and departmental level, that is group including the agencies
and department not including them. I commissioned a report from
our head of procurement on project management through the Home
Office. That reported a month ago. We agreed immediately to go
ahead with better training of SROs and the whole of the senior
Civil Service in the Home Office group in project management disciplines
and to have more intense training of the people working on major
projects. There are various other recommendations in the report
which we are still looking at, which bear on the organisation
of central support for procurement and project management through
59. You would agree essentially with what the
PAC conclusions said that the management and oversight of IT projects
by skilled managers is essential for ensuring that they are delivered
to time and to budget and failure can have a profound effect on
(Mr Gieve) Yes.