Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence


EDS-SCICON (PAC 1999-2000/108)

Letter to the Clerk of the Committee from the National Audit Office

At yesterday's presentation the Chairman asked about the role played by EDS-SCICON in verifying the software in the FADEC of the Chinook Mk 2. We have spoken to Fred Bullock the current managing director of EDS Defence (formerly EDS-SCICON). He was not in post at the time when EDS-SCICON were contracted to verify the software in the FADEC of the Chinook but was able to provide some background on the work undertaken on that contract. In particular, he confirmed that:

    —  EDS would not have expected to find any Category 1 anomalies in the software they were testing and would have expected far less Category 2 anomalies than were listed. He noted that EDS-SCICON had been sufficiently concerned about the safety implications of their findings to stop testing and to raise their concerns immediately with Hawker Siddeley (who produced the software under sub-contract from Textron-Lycoming) rather than waiting to produce a final report having tested all the software. Mr Bullock told us that EDS-SCICON were unhappy with the response they received from Hawker Siddeley who dismissed the concerns as being trivial;

    —  while he was aware that EDS had undertaken a significant amount of verification of software systems in the early 1990s using Static Code Analysis it was not a technique they used very much now. In his words EDS have found that as a testing technique it is difficult to add value to what the client is doing. He also noted that his firm has tended to be undercut by smaller software consultancies that can generally perform such testing more cheaply;

    —  he would have to ask his staff to look in the firm's archives to find other specific examples where they had used Static Code Analysis to evaluate software and the findings which such testing had produced.

  Mr Bullock emphasised to us that, whilst he had spoken to colleagues, his comments were only preliminary given the time constraints. He confirmed, however, that he would be happy to offer further assistance if requested.

Tim Banfield,
Director, National Audit Office

8 March 2000


 
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