Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200
MONDAY 12 NOVEMBER 2001
GIEVE CB, MS
200. The nature of the contract as you explain
it, is not quite the flavour as explained here.
(Mr Gieve) I think it does say that.
201. I understand that both people had a contract
that they wanted to renegotiate or to discuss, but the exact phrasing
is ". . . the negotiation had had to be completed under severe
time pressure because Bull was withdrawing resources from support
functions". That does seem to me not to be the action of
a partner. I am surprised in these circumstances when somebody
treats you like that, that you are prepared to carry on working
(Mr Gieve) The position was that Bull felt they were
providing services for which they were not being paid and for
which they had not ever signed a contract to provide. We needed
202. So they had you, basically.
(Mr Gieve) We needed the services; that is how I read
(Ms Wallis) A consolidated purchase order was actually
put in place at this time and that again was an attempt to grip
properly and control and know what was going on.
203. You were not in the strongest of negotiating
positions here, were you?
(Ms Wallis) No.
204. Bull are now calling themselves something
else, which I can very well understand. Explain this negotiating
tactic of having somebody over a barrel and then saying if they
do not cough up what you want you will stop the service. As I
understand it, that is pretty much what you said.
(Mr Crade) At the end of the previous year it was
identified that a number of purchase orders had been put in place
which were overlapping; or it was difficult to see where one service
ended and the other one started. At the end of that year, it was
decided to put us on notice of termination of those purchase orders.
That notice period was three months. Effectively, we then had
three months to negotiate a service or we had the difficulty of
whether to carry on providing a service with no purchase order
cover, in which case we did not get paid, or did we stop providing
205. Otherwise you would not get paid. There
was never any suggestion that if you were providing things beyond
the contract that you would not actually get paid for them. Surely
there was a dialogue about the terms and all the rest of it? Are
you seriously suggesting that the Home Office would take services
off you and then not pay for them?
(Mr Crade) There were some services we were providing
the previous year where we thought we were acting in good faith
in starting the work before a purchase order and then no purchase
206. I think we have been a little harsh with
Mr Gieve in this Committee. After all you only became the Permanent
Secretary at the Home Office in April this year. It does seem
to me from the answers you have given that you understand the
necessity to manage these contracts better, clarity of object,
contract management, properly resources, etcetera. At what level
are these IT contracts approved in the Home Office?
(Mr Gieve) IT projects as big as this? The latest
extension of the contract was approved by the Minister and by
207. Other than the extension of this contract,
what is the most recent IT contract that you will have approved?
(Mr Gieve) I guess the development of the internal
Home Office project on finance and personnel. I also monitor the
progress of various police IT contracts and I would expect to
be consulted about those. The airwave project for example.
(Ms Wallis) A specialist group has been in place to
offer that advice to the Permanent Secretary and the Minister
and myself and a senior responsible user from the Probation Service
itself, the director of IT. There is a senior user and that is
one of the chief officers from the operational services who can
look at it from a user perspective, an operational perspective.
There is a senior specialist and in this case the adviser was
from CAPU, the Commercial and Procurement Unit. Additional organisational,
IT and procurement advice is available when these decisions are
being considered by us.
208. Who is that advice given to by the people
making the final approval decision?
(Mr Gieve) The advice in the end goes through Eithne
to the Minister.
(Ms Wallis) Yes, to the Minister.
209. Which officer, which civil servant in the
Home Office on the latest contract you approved, the one about
the internal Home Office systems, has ownership of that project?
(Mr Gieve) The SIRIUS project?
210. Yes, the one you mentioned.
(Mr Gieve) Lynda Lockyer is the director of corporate
development and services group.
211. She is at director level.
(Mr Gieve) She is a grade 3 director.
212. Is that a more senior level of hands-on
ownership than under previous contracts?
(Mr Gieve) No, the equivalent senior responsible owner
in the Probation Service is Eithne, who is Director of Probation.
213. It is the issue of costs and benefits.
I am just looking at section 3 on page 44 about the business benefits
of this which seem to give a much less optimistic picture. In
particular it is noticeable that the number of authorities saying
that probation officer productivity has either gone down or is
the same is far greater than those who say productivity has gone
up. Twenty-nine say it has gone down or is the same and only 18
say it has gone up. The reduced use of IT support staff has not
been achieved, the reduction of administrative staff which was
an objective has not been achieved. The reduction of externally
provided IT support has not been achieved. It did reduce postage.
It did not reduce research and information costs. It did not even
reduce the accommodation costs in all of those cases, the no benefit
or negative impacts are greater than the positive. The striking
one about the quality of service to offenders is 16 no benefit,
26 some benefit. I presume that is people saying there has maybe
been some benefit out of this so they have ticked the box, which
is hardly a ringing endorsement really. It is only when you look
at communications within the service and communications with other
probation services that you get any good. The final one I notice
particularly is the one at the very bottom where the objective
was to introduce IT culture: 20 got some benefit, 20 got major
benefit. Given what we have heard about stress and strain and
all the rest of it, this really is not very good, considering
the enormous sums of money it cost us. On the previous page we
are seeing that it cost the other providers £27 million in
addition to everything it has cost the Government. Is this not
just a story of disaster from top to bottom during this period?
The fact that you have now made the best of a bad job is perhaps
another issue which we might return to. During the period of this
it is a pretty disastrous story, is it not?
(Mr Gieve) It is a story in which there are a lot
of failures, but nonetheless there were some benefits from this.
In particular this was a way of introducing IT into the Probation
Service which was successful and which nowadays we would not dream
of doing without. The thing which did disappoint most was the
CRAMS application which some people struggled with, some people
did without and a few managed to succeed with. Of course a lot
has gone wrong here; I have not sought to deny that.
214. I just want to ask Mr Crade whether or
not he was on performance related pay for any of this and did
he get a bonus?
(Mr Crade) Yes.
215. Is that yes to both?
(Mr Crade) Yes.
216. On a more positive note before you leave
us, Ms Wallis, could you tell us of your plans for making a success
of the National Probation Service? Look to the future for a second.
(Ms Wallis) The National Probation Service generally
or IT within it.
217. Yes, but particularly IT of course. As
you are here, we should be interested to know.
(Ms Wallis) The two aims of the new National Probation
Service are first of all to become a world recognised leader in
the design and the implementation of offender interventions and
programmes. Because of our What Works programme, we are already
well on the way to achieving that. Secondly, we aspire to being
an excellent organisation. We do recognise that if we want to
be a cutting edge deliverer of offender and victim programmes,
we need that excellent organisation behind us. That is why the
recovery plan for IT, for example, is so important to us and why
we are investing so much in making sure that we learn from those
mistakes. The service of the future will be better able to assess
the risk and dangerousness of those 200,000 offenders every day.
We shall be delivering programmes which have been designed on
the basis of their ability to reduce re-offending rates. That
is one of our major targets, so I hope we shall do that. We are
a service which needs to become increasingly good at identifying
the most dangerous offenders and in the interests of public protection
working hand in glove with police and other organisations to ensure
that we reduce those risks and manage them safely in the community.
218. Thank you very much for that. We wish you
well in the future. We thank you for coming before us. Thank you
Mr Gieve. I think it is your first appearance before the Committee
of Public Accounts as the Accounting Officer for the Home Office.
I hope you found it an enjoyable experience.
(Mr Gieve) Very.
219. Thank you very much. As you know, although
you only arrived in the Home Office in April, you are responsible
as the Accounting Officer for what went on before your time. The
Home Office never dies, as you know.
(Mr Gieve) I have not sought to dispute that.
Chairman: Thank you very much. Order, order.
That concludes the public session.