The UK government has today hit back at criticisms made by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of its history of troubled IT projects.
The Labour administration blames failures highlighted in today's PAC report, Improving the Delivery of Government IT Projects, on the former Conservative government. It said it would put the screws on providers who don't deliver in future.
Ian McCartney, minister of state at the Cabinet Office, said: "We won't tolerate failure. Government will be tough on providers who don't deliver on time, on budget, and who fail to improve services."
He added: "It is important to point out that 23 of the 26 projects or strategies mentioned in the report were agreed before May 1997."
The PAC report published today highlights a series of IT delay disasters. These include last summer's queues for UK passports, caused by a new computer system at the Passport Agency provided by Siemens Business Services under the government's private finance initiative.
Last October, vnunet.com outlined the troubled history of such PFI projects, confirmed by the PAC report which states that these are not "isolated examples." vnunet.com in a special report found that added together, the number of failed projects amounted to a massive indictment of UK government IT.
The PAC identifies "more than 25 cases from the 1990s where the implementation of IT systems has resulted in delay, confusion and inconvenience to the citizen and, in many cases, poor value for money to the taxpayer."
At stake is the government's programme of 'Modernising Government', says the committee, and expresses concern that the failure to deliver government IT projects jeopardises its success.
Of particular concern is the failure to learn from mistakes as problems continue to occur where the committee has made recommendations in the past.
"Similar problems have occurred under successive new methods of procurement, including most recently PFI deals," said the PAC report.
Key PAC recommendations include improving commitment of senior management, identifying business needs, considering whether projects are too ambitious to be undertaken in one go, getting the right contracts in place and training of staff.
McCartney said that the new team in the Cabinet Office "is tackling problems as soon as we find them", and promised central co-ordination will be better with the launch of the government's first ever Corporate IT strategy in March.
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