Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Home Office updating the Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General


  A programme of recovery for Probation IT was put in place during the latter half of 2000. There have been developments in Information and Technology in the National Probation Service since that time, with significant developments since the publication of the NAO report in April 2001.

  This note provides an update for the Committee on three areas of development: the procurement of a new interim contract to support and maintain the infrastructure when the current contract expires on 31 December 2001; an amendment to the existing Integris contract and the increase in staff resources to put the recovery programme into action.

  In addition this memorandum provides clarification of the financial statements regarding the NPSISS contract.


  The project to procure a contract to replace NPSISS after 31 December 2001 was begun in January 2001. The procurement has been fully in line with EC regulations.

  Five potential suppliers submitted proposals for the Phase 1 contract of which three were short listed: Integris, EDS and Unisys. Unisys subsequently withdrew from the process. We announced on 26 October, that Integris has been awarded the contract.

  The new contract will begin 1 January 2002 and run for a period of two and a half years with options to extend in six month periods up to a maximum of four years. It is to be known as STEPS—Standard Technical Environment for the Probation Service.

  The Phase 1 contract will provide:

    -  support and maintenance of the infrastructure including support for those areas not covered by NPSISS

    -  a technology upgrade and subsequent technology refreshes

    -  a higher performance, more robust infrastructure which will support new applications developments

    -  support for CRAMS


  Since the publication of the NAO report one amendment to the existing purchase order has been made. The amendment ensures that a small amount of high priority work, essential to the maintenance of the National Probation Service business, can be carried out.

  The work specified includes support to those probation areas which are amalgamating and supports the transition from the NPSISS contract to the Phase 1 contract. The amendment to the purchase order will entail work costing £700k.

  Legal advice sought prior to the amendment was that the amendment was reasonable given that (a) a full and open competition was being undertaken to procure the new contract and (b) the work could only reasonably be carried out by the existing supplier.


  The NAO report highlighted the need for the resource and skills base in the Information & Technology Group within the National Probation Directorate to be expanded. Progress on IT development had been hindered in the past by a lack of staff with the necessary skills and experience.

  The National Probation Directorate's Information & Technology Group is in the process of recruiting 10 permanent members of staff to fill senior posts in the Group. An external recruitment exercise has been undertaken in order to attract IT specialists to the Directorate. Over 200 applications were received. This recruitment exercise will be complete by the end of November.

  In the meantime, the Information & Technology Group has grown to 40 staff, being a mix of permanent staff, probation service secondees, consultants and contractors who between them have a wide range of required knowledge, skills and experience. In addition PAD (Production Applications Development) teams have been established using staff in the areas with the skills required to carry out work on behalf of the directorate.


  The National Probation Directorate believes that some clarification regarding the agreement of the business case and the presentation of some figures would be useful in advance of the hearing.

  The strategy business case for NSPISS was endorsed by HM Treasury in July 1994. The financial appraisal shows total planned expenditure over 10 years of £110.1 million. This sum formed part of the Home Office PES settlement.

  This provision was higher than the estimated procurement costs of NPSISS of £96.6 million set out in the procurement business case because the latter did not include all estimated local costs of support and training. [Neither the strategy or procurement business cases included the project management costs or provision to avoid Y2K problems].

  Table 7 in the NAO report compares the procurement business case estimates with the total actual costs including project management, local and Y2K costs (see paragraph 3.3). Some of these extra costs were allowed for in the strategy business case.

Home Office

November 2001

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