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Offender-tracking system scrapped due to costs

As the latest public-sector tech failure is revealed, Socitm condemns the government's track record on IT projects as 'embarrassing'
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Written by Nick Heath on

Spiralling costs of a £500m IT system to manage UK offenders have forced the government to scale it back.

Ambitious plans by the National Offender Management Service to fully unite prison and probation records have been scrapped in favour of a pared-down option after costs soared from an original estimate of £234m to £512m.

C-Nomis was to have brought together more than 200 prison and probation service databases to allow more than 80,000 criminal justice staff to share up-to-date profiles of offenders.

A version of the C-Nomis system — now known as Nomis (National Offender Management Information Systems) — will be deployed in 130 prisons across England and Wales but will no longer be used by the probation service, whose systems will be upgraded to two alternatives.

A new mechanism of "data share" will split information between the prison and probation service, with probation having read access only.

It is the latest casualty in a string of failed government IT projects, estimated to have cost nearly £2bn since 2000.

Public-sector IT body Socitm spoke out in the wake of the incident and condemned the government's track record on big IT projects as "embarrassing".

It follows the revelation this week from a parliamentary committee that an IT system to underpin nine new fire control centres is expected to be £70m over budget.

Socitm vice president Steve Hopson told ZDNet.co.uk's sister site, silicon.com: "I would describe it as embarrassing, it is not good for the image of the profession which is unfairly criticised because of a few high-profile failures.

"The difficulty with these government projects is that they are vast and the expectations are not always realistic."

He said such projects needed to be more frequently reviewed to ensure all parties were agreed on the project aims and ensure tighter controls on spending.

Prisons minister David Hanson said in a statement: "I am committed to continuing the successful implementation of the offender management model and am confident that national offender management service information technology will allow staff in both the prison and probation service to support crucial offender management."

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