Has £90m been wasted on government websites? Nobody knows...

Spending watchdog finds failure to measure value for money

Spending watchdog finds failure to measure value for money

The government has failed to measure the benefits of its online sites and services, making it impossible to judge whether they offer value for money, according to a report by the UK national spending watchdog.

Government spent £90.3m on its two main web domains, Directgov and Business.gov, and the online identity assurance service, Government Gateway, over the past three years without sufficient information about the returns on its investment, the report by the National Audit Office (NAO) said.

Palace of Westminster

Government has failed to measure whether it is getting value for money from online sites and services according to the National Audit OfficePhoto: Shutterstock

"It is a good thing that people visited the two main government websites some 200 million times last year. However, it's still unclear what benefits have been achieved and at what cost. We cannot conclude, therefore, that the taxpayer is securing value for money," Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said in a statement.

However, it's likely that Directgov, Business.gov and Gateway sites have delivered some cost savings to the public bodies which use them, through the reuse of common infrastructure, according to the report Digital Britain One: Shared infrastructure and services for government online, which was published today.

Providing official information for citizens and businesses in a central location online, like Directgov and Business.gov, also makes it easier for users to find the information they need, the report concludes.

While the government has shut down 1,526 websites since 2006, determining whether the government has hit its own targets for closing websites proved difficult for the NAO, due to uncertainty over the exact number of government sites in existence and changes to targets for website closures, the report said.

The Government Digital Service (GDS), a division of the Cabinet Office created in March to realise a new strategy for delivering public services and information online, must ensure that it builds mechanisms to measure whether the government gets value for money from its online strategy, according to the NAO.

The GDS is building a single web portal through which all government information and services can be delivered, as part of its role realising the government's strategy for all public services to be delivered digitally.