An £80m Home Office project to provide police officers with BlackBerry and personal data assistants (PDAs) has failed to achieve value for money according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO).
The organisation said while some benefits are being derived, chiefly allowing officers to spend on average an extra 18 minutes per shift on the streets, many forces are not taking full advantage of the capabilities the products offer.
The NAO said in particularly that more needed to be done to allow officers to use devices to improve efficiency and reduce bureaucracy. For example, by filling in crime and intelligence reports via the devices.
Furthermore, 22 forces told the NAO they have run into difficulties with the use of the devices, with officers failing to use them, technical problems affecting performance and senior management remaining unconvinced the devices provide genuine benefits.
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said that while forces should be commended for the roll out of the devices against a tight timescale they had work harder to understand how they could make better use of the devices they own.
"Too little consideration was given to the need for the devices or how they would be used. In the majority of forces, the benefits have not so far extended beyond simply allowing officers to spend more time out of the station," he said.
"There is still the opportunity to achieve value for money, though, if more forces use the technology to improve the efficiency of their processes and make savings in their back-office activities."
The National Policing Improvement Agency's (NPIA), the organisation responsible for the management of the Mobile Information Programme program under which the funding is allocated, glossed over the criticisms levelled at the project in its response.
"We are pleased to see the report acknowledges the important role the NPIA played in helping forces deliver over 40,000 mobile devices ahead of schedule and within budget," it said.
"As well as enabling frontline officers to spend more time on the beat they also give officers on-the-spot access to critical information systems which has helped forces to better protect the public and bring offenders to justice quicker."
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