Government to get tough on IT

Auditors claim millions of pounds of taxpayers' money is being wasted on failed IT projects
Written by Jane Wakefield, Contributor

Senior civil servants' heads may roll as the government announces a blitz on IT projects Monday and admits there needs to be drastic improvement in communication between ministers and civil servants.

In a report -- published in response to claims from its own auditors that millions of pounds of taxpayers' money is being wasted on failed IT projects -- the government attempts to silence its critics.

Launched by the Cabinet Office, the report -- Successful IT, Modernising Government in Action -- has 30 recommendations intended to end costly mistakes like the Ministry of Defence's £30m spend on two projects that were later scrapped. The report highlights the need for a change of attitude within the civil service. Cabinet Office minister Ian McCartney claims implementing the recommendations will transform the responsibility of civil servants and issues a stark warning for officials not prepared to modernise. "We are not going to tolerate failure," he says.

This message is reiterated by e-envoy Alex Allan who claims job prospects within departments will be measured by the success of future IT projects. "If a project is successful it will be positive for future careers. If it is a failure it will be negative." To this end future projects will be given a single Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) to oversee and take ultimate responsibility for IT decisions.

McCartney also admits private industry has taken advantage of the government. "People in the past have sold us old pups," he says. In order to prevent this happening in the future, the report recommends greater transparency and demands each outsourced IT project comes with detailed plans, timescales and covering resources.

With prime minister Tony Blair giving such a high profile to e-government and promising to make the UK the best place to trade electronically by 2002 the political impetus to get IT within government right has been high. The recommendations will be implemented for all future projects and the first report on how successful the new approach is will be published in December.

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