Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 79)



  60. How much does the Home Office spend on IT?
  (Mr Gieve) I do not have that figure in my head.
  (Ms Wallis) The National Probation Service is spending £20 million this year on IT.

  61. But the Home Office as a whole? I know from this report with which you say you agree that failure to deliver an IT system—
  (Mr Gieve) £60 million per year is the Home Office's own IT system.

  62. Then there are the agencies on top.
  (Mr Gieve) If you include the police IT organisation, the prisons and the whole of the immigration service it is considerably more than that.

  63. Yes, of course. The point I am making is that if it is of profound importance for the organisation that these projects go right and getting it wrong can have a big impact on the organisation's ability to provide services to its customers, then having a handle on these things is obviously critical. Would you mind giving the Committee a summary breakdown of the IT expenditure in due course?
  (Mr Gieve) I am happy to provide a note. Clearly this is very, very important to Home Office success in future, not only in the narrow project management of major procurements, but also in the project management of other activities.[2]

  64. Do you have some idea, at least at a topdown level, of how many IT projects you have going on at any one time?
  (Mr Gieve) We had a list of about 15 major ones, that is projects over £10 million. We probably have a lot more besides that of more minor ones.

  65. Turning to CRAMS specifically, I understand most of the benefits of this project were due to be derived from CRAMS. Who were to be the main beneficiaries of CRAMS?
  (Mr Gieve) The main beneficiaries were supposed to be probation officers doing their job.
  (Ms Wallis) The main beneficiaries were indeed meant to be service staff, but obviously some of the business benefits were about actually assisting staff to do their jobs better so we would have expected the wider public in terms of enhanced service delivery to have a business benefit as well.

  66. Am I right that there were supposed to be terminals in courts as well?
  (Ms Wallis) Yes.

  67. Paragraph 2.6 says, "The NPSISS strategy and business case did not make provision for extending the network to the Home Office Probation Unit or the Probation Inspectorate". I find that staggering. I should have thought they would be obvious people to be included.
  (Ms Wallis) This reflects the organisation at that time. The 54 quasi-autonomous fiefdoms who did not see themselves as part of a single organisation and a fairly traditional policy unit, the Probation Unit, at the centre. I should point out that the recovery programme which was launched last year has picked up speed quickly and produced a number of additional functionality. We do now have the 42 new operational areas and the centre joined through that e-mail connection.

  68. It also says in this paragraph 2.6, "At the end of 2000 there was one NPSISS terminal in the Home Office to facilitate communication with probation services". Could you say how many terminals there are in the Home Office now?
  (Ms Wallis) All of us who have computers on our desks have that connection. We are able through that communication system to have contact with anyone who actually has a NPSISS desktop throughout the organisation.

Jon Trickett

  69. I should like to ask a couple of questions of Bull first. How do you think you have performed as a company in relation to this contract or series of contracts?
  (Mr Crade) As the NAO report says, the implementation of the national IT infrastructure was a notable success. Delivering it to 54 different—49 as it turned out—probation services who each had their own slightly different requirements was quite a challenging thing to achieve. On the downside is the implementation of CRAMS which was extremely difficult, far more difficult than we would have expected. We are tainted by the failure of that application.

  70. You provided what are described as interfaces. I presume that is some kind of hardware which was so difficult to use that there are actually health and safety risks.
  (Mr Crade) The CRAMS application had an audit done on it, looking at the health and safety issues and it did not come out well from that.

  71. So that is yes, there were health and safety risks.
  (Mr Crade) Yes, there were health and safety risks.

  72. Are you the account manager?
  (Mr Crade) I was the account manager.

  73. I think you have been twice.
  (Mr Crade) Yes.

  74. What rate of return have Bull made on all this money you have had from the taxpayer?
  (Mr Crade) If we look over the seven years of the programme, I would have to say that we have lost money on the CRAMS implementation.

  75. What rate of return have you been operating to on the whole series of contracts we are talking about today?
  (Mr Crade) Less than we would have expected and less than the average.

  76. I asked how much your rate of return was. Give me an amount of money or give me a percentage.
  (Mr Crade) Just over break-even.

  77. Presumably you do not estimate on that but on a larger rate of return than that.
  (Mr Crade) We do.

  78. You failed to comply with best industry practice in relation to 2000 compliance, did you not?
  (Mr Crade) In what respect?

  79. In respect of the fact that you failed by 1998, as the industry expected you to, to report on the extent to which this computer gear failed to comply with Y2K.
  (Mr Crade) We did provide a report in early 1998 which highlighted the issues to do with Year 2000. We did that report at our own cost.

2   Ev 20, Appendix 1. Back

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