Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
MONDAY 12 NOVEMBER 2001
GIEVE CB, MS
120. I understand that the money is only going
round in circles but nevertheless it is interesting to know how
much value they thought they were getting out of it as compared
to the value they thought they were going to get out of it when
you started and the value you had promised them when they started.
Why are the five who are not usingoriginally five but you
are now saying fourNPSISS at all not even in it now?
(Ms Wallis) Because we did not want any of the areas
to lose functionality. There are four areas not yet in and we
wanted to move them in under the phase one contract. We have already
joined up all the e-mail systems. The four areas which are still
not within NPSISS have been given Lotus Notes so that they can
take on board the other applications which are currently being
developed. We are adding to their functionality.
121. Are you saying they are working better
because they are not in?
(Ms Wallis) We wanted to ensure that they did not
lose any functionality.
122. So they would work worse if they were in.
(Ms Wallis) There would be more cost and it would
be more complex. As we were already moving towards a procurement
for the next stage contract then the most cost efficient way of
doing it with the least disruption to frontline services was to
add to their functionality where appropriate, but take them completely
within the New Steps programme when that new contract kicks in
on 1 January. They have already benefited from the changes which
have been started due to the recovery plan per se. They
are connected up to e-mail, they have Lotus Notes and they have
other applications coming on stream to be made available to them.
They are keeping what they had but are also being given more during
this process of migration.
123. In the original business plan when you
decided to go ahead you presumably had the benefits costed at
greater than the cost of the programme. Are you now saying that
the benefits are greater than the cost of the programme, which
is £118 million? Are the benefits which have in fact accrued
been greater than the cost?
(Ms Wallis) The assessments which have been done have
indicated where some of the benefits have lain. To repeat what
the Permanent Secretary has said, the benefits which have come
from a NPSISS contract have been about the infrastructure, about
the training, the IT literate workforce, e-mail and particularly
Lotus Notes. There have been some developments in those Notes.
124. That is a lovely qualitative description
but it is not quantitative. What I asked was whether the benefits
have been greater than the cost.
(Mr Gieve) We have not measured it.
(Ms Wallis) We have not measured it in that way.
125. Do you not think it is about time you did?
We are coming to the end of the time when it was supposed to be
up and running fully and you still do not know whether your benefits
have met the original plan. That seems to be something which was
(Ms Wallis) The learning we have tried to do from
this is make sure that in setting up the new contract we do make
sure that we cost out those business benefits and that is where
the energy has been going at the moment.
126. You told me that you costed out the benefits
originally, but what you have not done is see whether those business
benefits actually came about.
(Mr Gieve) Paragraph 2.5 in the report, the greater
part of the net benefit of the system was to come from greater
productivity in the offices. There has been greater productivity,
which is estimated here as 18 per cent, £16 million a year.
What we did not do systematically through this period was to attribute
that to the IT rather than to other developments. There have been
many other developments over those seven years. We could go back
over that exercise and try to do it retrospectively. In fact our
efforts have been trying to put in place a new contract which
we do certainly believe will bring greater benefits and costs.
127. I have to tell you that I am staggered
you have not already worked out how much the benefits were. I
am even more staggered, given that you knew you were going to
come before this Committee, that before you came to this Committee
you did not work out what benefits have actually accrued. A brief
question about the number of programme directors which other members
of the Committee have also highlighted. You said that there were
five programme directors in quick succession in 1997 and you knew
where they all went to. May I ask first of all whether the two
who had significant IT project experience were two of the five
who went very quickly or whether those two were in fact the two
who remained for some time, the very first one and presumably
you have one now who has lasted for some time.
(Mr Gieve) The original head of the information service
group was there for four years.
128. Was he one of the ones who had had IT experience
(Ms Wallis) She. Yes, she did. She was there for four
129. She was one of the ones who had had a lot
of experience beforehand.
(Ms Wallis) Yes.
130. She lasted for four years or so up until
(Ms Wallis) Yes.
131. Who was the other one who had had experience?
(Ms Wallis) The second was Sandie Grimshaw and she
was interim head of services, but she was a consultant and she
was brought in on a short-term contract.
132. She did not last very long. One of them
lasted a long time who had had a lot of experience, but the other
one did not.
(Mr Gieve) The other one was brought in for a few
months. Now we have a new one who also has a lot of IT experience.
133. After five left in quick succession and
you said you knew where they all went, how many of those left
because they chose to leave to go to some other job and how many
were offered new posts by the Civil Service which they preferred?
(Mr Gieve) I do not know the answer to that question.
(Ms Wallis) People left for three reasons. Some left
through a process of natural attrition; they had other reasons
to move on to other jobs. Ann Fletcher for example took early
134. Was appointed and almost immediately took
(Ms Wallis) Four years.
135. Sorry, she was the first one, was she?
(Ms Wallis) She worked for four years, so there was
a normal process of attrition.
136. I am talking about the five who left quickly.
(Ms Wallis) You have some turnover in any staff group.
There were others who were there as consultants and who were appointed
on a short-term basis in the first instance. Yes, there were others
who left because it was a difficult and complex task. It is accepted
that the comments in the NAO report are fair when they say that
some of those staff in the team did not actually have the experience
and the capacity to do the job, it was a difficult working environment
and some of those left.
137. Basically you appointed the wrong person;
somebody who was not up to the job.
(Ms Wallis) It was a mixture of people competing,
people offering themselves up, wanting the job and over a period
of time finding that it was not the right job for them.
Mr Rendel: A very short period of time in some
138. You will be pleased to know that I shall
not ask many questions because I think the Committee have covered
it reasonably well. There are one or two things which I want to
clarify. Am I wrong? In my part of the world, and it is a terrific
part at this time of year, my trading standards officers have
a lot of work because of people going round the streets and telling
residents, primarily elderly residents, that their chimneypot
is loose and they can fix it for £50. When they come down
they suck their teeth and say it is a bit worse than they thought,
it is not £50, they have to repoint the chimney. Of course
the poor, usually old, people do not have a clue because they
cannot get up on the roof and look at it. What is the difference
between you and the people going round the streets fixing chimneys?
(Mr Crade) Are we relating this to the CRAMS application
(Mr Crade) May I make the point then that the CRAMS
application was one which we inherited. It was one we were given,
it was developed by Northumbria probation service; so we did not
build the chimney in the first place. When we got it, it was not
to the standard we had expected, or indeed documented to the standard
we had expected and therefore it took a lot more to develop the
additional functionality we were asked to develop on top of that.
Therefore in actual fact we did not make money out of CRAMS because
in doing fixed price developments where we actually take longer
than we are asked to there is obviously a difficulty. Many of
the faults we were trying to fix were faults in the original application
rather than faults we had introduced.