Accenture underestimated the complexity of implementing a £46.1m national IT system for Police Scotland, which led to rapid loss of trust between the organisations, and ultimately saw the project collapse, according to a report by Audit Scotland.
In the report, i6: a review, Audit Scotland found that the process for procuring a supplier for the i6 system had followed recommended good practice, including assembling a programme team from within the police, complemented by external expertise.
The idea was to merge more than 130 legacy systems to deliver a new operational policing system that forms part of the Scottish Police Authority's (SPA) wider IT strategy. It was expected to generate potential efficiency savings of around £200m over 10 years for Police Scotland and the SPA.
In June 2013, Accenture was awarded a fixed-price contract worth £46.11m - but within weeks, and despite 18 months of pre-award discussions, Accenture and Police Scotland disagreed about whether the proposed system would deliver the requirements set out in the contract.
After a period of negotiation, in which the two organisations fundamentally disagreed about the contract and its requirements, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and Accenture finally signed a contract variation agreement in April 2014. But Audit Scotland said that the early disagreements between Police Scotland and Accenture led to a breakdown in relationships and a loss of trust "that never fully recovered".
In July last year, Accenture, the SPA and Police Scotland terminated the contract in a mutual agreement, after a review by police officers found 12 critical errors that made the system unusable, with 76 defects in total that required more work.
The i6 programme was complicated and highly ambitious; the two parties had initially believed that the majority of the system could be based on an existing IT system that Accenture had delivered elsewhere.
But Audit Scotland said this belief was incorrect, and that as the design and development process developed, it became apparent that Accenture would need to develop significantly more than what had originally been anticipated.
Despite delays and serious problems throughout the lifetime of the programme, Accenture provided regular assurance, in the face of strong challenge, about their confidence in delivering the i6 system. This assurance proved misplaced, claimed Audit Scotland.
The system was due to go live in December 2015, but the deadline was pushed back to the autumn of 2016. After Police Scotland tested the system, Accenture estimated that meeting the requirements of the contract would take an additional two-and-a-half years, with the live date pushed back to April 2018, almost four years later than originally planned. After a series of meetings, the SPA and Accenture mutually agreed to terminate the i6 contract.
SPA secured a settlement agreement of £24.65m, meaning that Accenture agreed to refund the £11.09m that the SPA had already paid, as well as an additional payment of £13.56m, which was the estimated staff costs and capital costs such as hardware maintenance and software licenses.
Audit Scotland said that the need to modernise police ICT systems six years ago when the procurement of i6 began has not yet been met, and that police officers and staff are struggling with out-of-date, inefficient and poorly integrated systems.
This also hinders how Police Scotland interacts and shares information and intelligence with the other parts of the justice system," it said.
"Modern policing faces financial and operational challenges. Given the role that i6 was to play in police reform, there is an urgent need for a frank assessment of Police Scotland's IT requirements, and how these can be delivered alongside the vision set out in the recent Policing 2026 draft strategy," Caroline Gardner, auditor general for Scotland, added.
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