Government and IT- "A Recipe For Rip-Offs": Time For A New Approach - Public Administration Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1. Information Technology (IT)[1] now impacts on almost every part of society. Government spent an estimated £16 billion on IT in 2009.[2] IT is the means by which the government interacts with citizens; the majority of its services are processed using IT enabled business systems; departments and public bodies rely on electronic systems to manage corporate functions; and many public sector workers use IT infrastructure in the course of their working day. Yet despite the breadth and depth of IT's use in government, the public sector seems to make less effective use of IT than the private sector.

2. The Government is aware of these perceived failings. It has already conducted a series of contract renegotiations with its largest IT suppliers and the Cabinet Office's first business plan contained five high level actions that mentioned IT.[3] More recently, its ICT Strategy set out its aim to use IT to deliver better public services while reducing costs.[4] The Government is not alone in taking a renewed interest in IT. The NAO published its landscape review of Government ICT in February,[5] swiftly followed by the Institute for Government's Report "System Error".[6]

Our inquiry

3. This inquiry examined how government uses IT and what the barriers are to further improvement. Over the course of this inquiry we received 69 written submissions from a range of organisations and individuals. We held five evidence sessions with academics, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), trade bodies, systems integrators (SIs), representatives of local government, officials from the Department of Work and Pensions, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Cabinet Office and the Rt Hon Francis Maude MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office (the Minister). We also visited Facebook and Vocalink.[7] Finally, we held a private meeting with SMEs, hosted by the Institute for Government, in order for us to hear from SMEs who were concerned that being publicly critical could lead to them losing business. [8] We would like to thank all those who contributed to our inquiry; especially Jerry Fishenden, an IT consultant and researcher who acted as our specialist adviser, whose support over the course of this inquiry has been invaluable.[9]

1   Over the course of this inquiry the terms IT (Information Technology) and ICT (Information and Communication Technology) have been used inter-changeably. We have treated both words the same way in this Report and will use the term IT except in cases where witnesses or documents refer specifically to ICT. Back

2   HMT, Operational Efficiency Programme: back office operations and IT, May 2009.  Back

3   Cabinet Office, Business Plan 2011-2015, Actions1.8 - 1.12 Back

4   Cabinet Office, Government ICT Strategy, March 2011, para 7 Back

5   National Audit Office, Information and Communication Technology in Government: Landscape review, HC 757, 17 February 2011 Back

6   Institute for Government, System Error: Fixing the Flaws in Government IT, March 2011 Back

7   The company whose IT systems run payment transfers for the financial sector Back

8   A closed, Chatham House rule session with SMEs was held during May 2011, hosted by the Institute for Government, in order for us to hear evidence that SMEs felt unable to reveal on the public record. Back

9   Jerry Fishenden was appointed as a Specialist Adviser to the Committee for this inquiry on 23 November 2010. Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 28 July 2011