Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
MONDAY 12 NOVEMBER 2001
GIEVE CB, MS
100. May I start off by asking the Treasury
whether throughout the Civil Service there was no knowledge until
1996 of the millennium bug problem, given that, certainly as somebody
who worked in computers well before that, other areas of business
were certainly aware that there might be a problem.
(Ms Constable) I am sorry, I do not have the detail
of the exact date. It was something which was taken forward by
the Cabinet Office. I can provide the information afterwards.
101. Does the C&AG have any idea when knowledge
of the potential millennium bug first came to the Civil Service
in general as opposed to the Home Office in particular?
(Sir John Bourn) I would say at least a decade before
the year 2000. It was discussed generally throughout society,
so we all knew that it was a potential problem. As our reports
on it have shown, the question was focusing energy and commitment
to lay off the risks it brought.
102. I am grateful for that answer, because
that is certainly much more in line with what I felt about when
the millennium problem first hit us. It seems to me rather odd
that it did not hit the Home Office in this particular case until
1996 when it first became apparent. I wonder why the Home Office
did not insist on something about the millennium problem being
written into the contract.
(Mr Gieve) The point I was reflecting was the point
in the NAO's own report which says, ". . . general awareness
of the Year 2000 problem did not emerge until around March 1996".
I am not saying that people might not have been aware that there
was talk about what would happen in Year 2000 before that. The
scale and the nature of the possible faults in the system emerged
around then. I am sorry, I am not an expert on whether it was
March 1996, I was relying on the NAO report on that.
103. General awareness in the Home Office seems
to have hit rather late and that is the point I am trying to get
at. I would have thought that most people knew that there was
likely to be a problem. Nobody knew what the size of it was. Nobody
analysed just how bad it was going to be. Nevertheless people
did know there was likely to be a problem and I should have thought
that if there is any sort of problem you automatically write that
into the contract. If you do not know how big it is going to be,
it is even more important that you write it into the contract.
(Mr Gieve) I wish we had.
104. So do I. I should like to ask a question
about how this contract was set up. I think it was Ms Wallis who
said that in 1994 there were 54 quasi-autonomous probation services.
(Ms Wallis) Yes.
105. Who decided to create a single computer
system for them all?
(Ms Wallis) It was a decision taken by the Head of
the Probation Unit which at that time was in the Home Office structure,
but that decision was taken in collaboration with the areas, with
the probation services themselves.
106. Did they all promise that they would buy
(Ms Wallis) No, they did not.
107. Who was going to pay for it? Was it going
to be paid for as a speculative project and nobody knew whether
they were going to buy into it or not?
(Ms Wallis) It was going to be funded in two ways.
There was going to be central funding from the Home Office, but
the way it was set up was that the individual probation committees
could also purchase through the enabling framework. So some of
the cost would be paid centrally, the development costs and the
contract running costs, but each of those 54 probation committees
could also lay purchasing orders.
108. Of the 54, 49 eventually bought in to at
least part of it, though not all of them actually into CRAMS.
(Ms Wallis) Yes.
109. Five still have not even now.
(Ms Wallis) There are 34. We now have 42 areas; when
we created the National Probation Service, there were 14 mergers
to reduce from 54 to 42 to be coterminous with the police as the
core building block in the criminal justice system. Thirty-four
of those areas do use CRAMS in some way. About 18 of them only
use it as a case index system and then about 16 do use it on the
whole as a case management system.
110. How many are not using it at all?
(Ms Wallis) Eighteen.
111. They have not had to pay into the system
(Ms Wallis) I beg your pardon: eight. May I correct
112. You are quicker than I was. I am afraid
I was not listening to the other figures very carefully. So eight
have not paid into it at all.
(Ms Wallis) All but four are now within the NPSISS
infrastructure. They will have been contributing to the contract
113. But that would not be CRAMS.
(Ms Wallis) Not to CRAMS per se but the rest
of the costs.
114. What would have happened if none of them
had ever bought into it?
(Ms Wallis) I guess there was a high risk of it collapsing
in that case. For it to be implemented across the areas, that
required either the Home Office to find new funding or the probation
committees to cover some of the cost of the local equipment and
their share of the maintenance and support costs. The choices
would have been either for more money to be made available from
the centre or to find an alternative way of creating a hardware
and infrastructure for the service.
115. It must have become obvious at a fairly
early stage that at least some of them were unlikely to buy in
as much as you thought they were going to. Some of them have never
come into CRAMS and some of them have never even come into NPSISS.
At a fairly early stage it must have been obvious they were not
going to buy in.
(Ms Wallis) We need to differentiate CRAMS as a piece
of software from the rest of the system. When the NPSISS, that
strategic aspiration, that strategy, was actually laid in 1993,
there was a great deal of service buy-in to the strategy per
se. The service, the managers, the committees did want to
move forward. They could see the benefits that good IT systems
could bring. There was gradual buy-in for the infrastructure and
the hardware and some of the other applications which were going
to be available. It was CRAMS per se which met the highest
level of resistance throughout the service.
116. How much of the cost in the long term was
the Home Office always going to bear even in the original plan
and how much is the Home Office centrally going to bear now given
that it has not met with buy-in by all the area services?
(Ms Wallis) The costs which were laid for the systems
in the NAO report still stand. We still expect the total cost
to come in at around £118 million. When we move into the
next stage of contract
117. Are you talking about the Home Office central
(Ms Wallis) No, the total cost. Some of this is being
paid centrally and some being paid by the committees.
118. Some of that was going to be offset by
(Ms Wallis) Yes.
119. The question I was asking was how much
was originally going to be offset by the committees and how much
now is going to be offset by the committees, given that they have
not all bought into it?
(Ms Wallis) I do not believe a distinction was made
in that sense. I have not actually seen it broken down into costs
in that way. Perhaps I could submit a note on that. I can investigate
(Mr Gieve) The Home Office was grant
aiding the committees in any event to 80 per cent. In a sense
we provided for the total cost and
4 Note by witness: There was some knowledge
of potential millennium bug problems in individual departments
prior to 1966. A coordinated approach was introduced in 1996. Back
Ev 20, Appendix 1. Back