The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) published its twelfth report in July last year. The report entitled – “a recipe for rip offs”: time for a new approach, was put before the House of Commons for consideration. The PASC expressed concern about the Government’s over-reliance on an “oligopoly” of large suppliers, the costs and risks arising from skills gaps within Whitehall, the problems arising from legacy information technology (IT) systems, and weaknesses in the Government’s capacity to plan and drive through wholesale change in the way it uses and exploits IT in delivering public services. The Committee also explored some possible ways in which the delivery of public services online could be reformed—and transformed—through a combination of data release, giving individuals control of their own personal records, engaging users (both within and outside Government) in the design of services, and opening up the online delivery of services to a wider range of organisations.
The Committee deferred publication of the Government’s response in order to take advice on the Government’s progress. In December 2011, the National Audit Office published its first review of the Government’s progress in implementing its Information and Communications Technology (ICT) strategy (the NAO report). Now all the information is available, the committee has issued a further report in which it commends the government’s generally constructive and proactive response to the report, though it remains critical about the government’s failure to engage with some of the other wide-ranging recommendations, particularly around benchmarking, legacy systems and capacity/capability gaps.
The Cabinet office has now responded to the PASC statement. Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, said the government would consider the full report before commenting but stated:
“Historically, government ICT has had an unenviable reputation but our recent work shows we are moving it in the right direction – so we are delighted that the PASC have praised our momentum in this area and the progress we have made. We are determined to deliver world-class public services that offer value for taxpayers’ money – and we know that effective and efficient ICT is crucial in this.”
“We set out some ambitious objectives in our ICT strategy and since then we have been going from strength to strength. As well as getting the major players in central government involved in the implementation of the strategy, we already have foundation delivery partners delivering their email services via Cloud and other partners using the Public Services Network.”
“The action we are taking will reduce waste, avoid the costly project failures of the past and see smart technology systems being used to improve the way public services are delivered. Successful implementation of the ICT strategy across central government is projected to contribute to £1.4bn of savings already required within the SR10 period with £460m savings in-year in 2014/15.”
“We will consider the report’s recommendations before setting out our response in due course.”