Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
MONDAY 12 NOVEMBER 2001
GIEVE CB, MS
20. Which is the important thing, is it not?
(Mr Gieve) No, it is not the only important thing.
Of the £118 million £12 million went on CRAMS, so there
is quite a lot else besides.
21. All you were putting in was a hardware system.
(Mr Gieve) Hardware and software, e-mails and so on.
22. You put a hardware system in before you
can use the software. It is no use putting in the hardware system
if the software does not work. The software does not work.
(Mr Gieve) There is a lot more besides CRAMS on all
these probation services' hardware. They have a suite of programmes.
23. Why were the local offices given permission
not to use it? Ms Wallis has said that they were not computer
literate. That is a pathetic excuse, is it not and they are not
going to be computer literate until the year 2003. That is an
(Mr Gieve) I did not hear her say that.
24. Did you say 2003?
(Ms Wallis) No, I said at the outset across England
and Wales not all services were full of staff who were actually
computer literate and there was not a lot of hardware around at
that time. The hardware tended to be stand-alone machines or a
small number of areas which had local area networks. Part of the
business benefit we have received from the NPSISS contract is
the fact that we now do have a computer literate workforce and
we have had for some time.
25. That is good to know. Why were local offices
allowed not to use it?
(Ms Wallis) Two reasons.
26. What is the point of a national scheme if
you are going to say small offices need not use it?
(Ms Wallis) The decisions whether to use it or not
rested with the area committees at that time. We did not have
a national service, so there was no power to insist. It was a
local committee decision. There were the powers of persuasion
but at the end of the day the committees made their decision,
some on the basis of their own cost-benefit analysis chose to
use it, some did not. It is also well documented in the NAO report
that there were some health and safety issues to do with the CRAMS
software. It has been acknowledged that it was complex, that it
was difficult, it was not easy to use. It did put a considerable
amount of pressure on users in those early days. For those reasons
some committees made a decision that they would not invest.
27. Health and safety. They were in danger of
their health breaking down using a computer system.
(Ms Wallis) It is recognised that in the early years
it was a difficult system to use. If you are talking about people
who are learning to use technology for the first time, then yes,
it was difficult.
28. Would they have been under stress?
(Ms Wallis) Some staff certainly found it difficult
29. It was such a bad scheme that it did not
even do external e-mail, did it? You could not even get on the
Internet with it. It was useless, was it not? Your firm produced
it, Mr Crade, and it was useless, was it not?
(Mr Crade) What we were asked to provide was a system
which provided a wide area network connecting the probation services
together and also the offices within a probation service to the
centre of that probation service, electronic mail facilities and
office software as well. Most probation services up to that point
did not have many of these standard office facilities and they
certainly did not have a standard IT infrastructure across all
of those probation services.
30. We are talking about up to 1999 and they
could not access the Internet and they could not send an external
e-mail. Any kid's computer can do that.
(Mr Crade) You have to remember that there are security
requirements around access to the Internet which only started
to be resolved by the Government secure Internet.
31. Was there any effort to update the scheme
as you were going along? Did anybody have the bright idea that
people might want to send an e-mail one day or it might be handy
to get onto the Internet? Did anyone in your firm say that should
be in the contract?
(Mr Crade) We did have those discussions but they
were not in the contract initially, because the contract was let
32. Why was the scheme not abandoned altogether?
It was clearly useless, so why was it not just abandoned?
(Mr Gieve) We had a contract for seven years. Secondly,
we have not abandoned it in that we are still using it and the
probation offices around the country are using this system every
day. Some of them, I agree only a minority, are using
33. Sixteen of them.
(Mr Gieve) No, 16 of them are using CRAMS. So far
as I know all the offices which have NPSISS are using it. We cannot
just abandon it. None of the probation offices in the country
could do without their IT systems.
34. You could have put the hardware and infrastructure
in and not abandoned that but why did you not abandon CRAMS which
was not working, was useless? It cost you £11 million which
is something like three times the original cost; something like
£4 million originally, was it not, and it went to £11
million? It still cannot achieve what it is supposed to do.
(Mr Gieve) I shall ask Eithne to explain exactly what
has happened in the last two years but after developing CRAMS
to make it more user friendly, which it isI saw the current
version and it is very much more user friendly than the original
versionwe did stop development of CRAMS and we did not
insist on rolling it out to other probation areas.
35. I cannot resist coming back to a point the
Chairman made. It seems to me that the Home Office were so concerned
that they had seven different project directors, only two knew
anything about IT anyway, so there was not a great deal of dedication
in the Home Office, was there, to make things very successful?
If you had been worried about it, surely you would have put somebody
in charge who knew what they were doing in the first place.
(Mr Gieve) Having seven different people and especially
having the sharp turnaround in 1997 for the years after that was
certainly not planned.
36. Did the Home Office know what was going
on at all? Had they kept any checks whatsoever?
(Mr Gieve) These were Home Office officials, so of
course they did.
37. Somebody in your position. Not you personally
but was somebody who sat in the chair before you or maybe a little
bit more junior taking any interest in the scheme?
(Mr Gieve) Yes.
38. Clearly the Home Office were involved because
there were seven people in seven years, but what I am asking is
whether anybody was interested in making the scheme a success?
(Mr Gieve) Yes. First of all there was a senior Home
Office official, Eithne's predecessor, and there were two during
this period. There was the head of the probation side of the Home
Office concerned at this time.
39. They were not that concerned, were they?
(Mr Gieve) I imagine this was a lot of what they did
1 Note by witness: Since the publication of
the NAO report, 33 probation services are currently using CRAMS
and 6,000 registered users have access to 920,000 case records. Back