Burn: NPfIT has 'failed so far'

At last month's Government UK IT Summit, Andy Burn, head of information management and technology planning for Connecting for Health, made an astonishing statement:"[Government IT projects] have a reputation gained from what's happened in the past. That reputation is deserved.

At last month's Government UK IT Summit, Andy Burn, head of information management and technology planning for Connecting for Health, made an astonishing statement:

"[Government IT projects] have a reputation gained from what's happened in the past. That reputation is deserved. There have been plenty of successes right across the board in the health sector, but I would say [NPfIT] has failed [so far]," Burn added.

Government IT projects were also criticised by Medix, an internet service for doctors that provides access to medical information.

In a debate at the Government UK IT Summit, arguing for a motion that Government projects are ineffectual, Robin Guenier, the chairman of Medix UK, said that Government IT projects were not catering to the needs of the citizen.

"The junior doctors absurdity, the mind-numbing ID Card cost escalations and a host of others -- the DWP benefit payments, MoD procurement -- you can go on listing these forever. Poor IT is damaging people's lives and damaging taxpayers pockets," said Guenier.

"The DVLA scheme is wonderful, and successes are always ignored. However, IT systems are supposed to work. Success should be regarded as routine."

Guenier said that lack of accountability should projects fail did not provide motivation for the Government departments involved.

"In the private sector if things go wrong, companies go bust and shareholders aren't paid. Taking risks with public money is seen as no risk at all," said Guenier.

Burn was also participating in the debate -- as one of the 'jurors' who were to decide whether government IT projects were effectual. Seems he handed down sentence upon himself.

Even more worryingly, speaking to ZDNet UK at the conference, the Cabinet Office said that it was difficult to find a chief information officer who was willing to accept accountability for the National Identity Register.

"I'm finding it immensely difficult to find someone and nail down responsibility," said a member of the Central Sponsor for Information Assurance (CSIA. "In the private sector the chief information officer is responsible. I asked [a top CIO] in government, and they said 'No way will I be held responsible'."

However, some Government IT professionals said that many Government IT projects were successful.

Glyn Evans, assistant to the chief executive on transformation, Birmingham City Council said:

"The DWP payments programme handles 100 billion transactions a week. Local authority organisations are looking at [scale and] complexity most private sector organisations would blanche at."