14.The National Audit Office (NAO) concluded last year that the Emergency Services Network (ESN) was an inherently high-risk programme that warranted the highest levels of senior oversight, but that the Home Office (the Department) appeared to be under-rating the extent of risks to delivering ESN. The Department disagreed with the National Audit Office’s judgement, stating that, “the Home Office does not agree with the NAO’s judgement about the Department’s acknowledgement of the programme’s risk”. At our November 2016 evidence session, however, the Department accepted that ESN was a high-risk programme and assured us that the programme was subject to expert scrutiny by its portfolio and investment committee. Indeed the Permanent Secretary assured us that he had “scrutinised this programme more than any other in my four years in this job, right the way through, through the formal mechanisms but informally as well”. The Department also believed Motorola’s purchase of Airwave in February 2016 had helped de-risk the programme and brought the overall level of risk down to amber.
15.We questioned the Department on how this intensive level of oversight squared with the fact that the issues with supporting Airwave after March 2020 were not identified sooner. The Department confirmed that Motorola only informed it about the issue on 16 January, eight days before Motorola told this Committee. Motorola itself was only notified of the issue by Vodafone on 6 December 2016. The Department told us that its risk registers did include a general risk around extending what was ageing equipment but it did not anticipate the specific issue that has emerged. The Department has had since 2000, when the original Airwave contract was signed, to identify this issue, and this programme to replace it began in 2011. It is also surprising that this issue was not identified by Motorola when it conducted due diligence ahead of its purchase of Airwave in February 2016. The Department told us that, “one of the things that we will have to explore—this will be part of the discussions—is the exact due diligence process you described.”
16.We asked the Department whether it was possible that Motorola raised the issue almost simultaneously with the Committee and the Department in order to strengthen its position ahead of commercial discussions and add pressure to the Department to invest in Airwave. The Department did not consider that to be the case, stating that Motorola notified it of the issue as it arose. The Department has long-standing relationships with the ESN suppliers and said it believed the fact the issue originated in a sub-contractor meant it went unnoticed. The Department said it would have expected to have had the opportunity to work through the issue before reporting it to the Committee, but thought Motorola were simply trying to be open by raising it immediately. It also believed that suppliers were concerned about maintaining their reputations, and that from what it has seen to date Motorola has behaved well. The Department said that “I don’t think we should exaggerate the impact of this notification. We have been given it early, we will work through whether it has a material effect, and if it does, we will mitigate it”.
36 , paras 18, 22–23
40 (ESR 02)
41 Letter to the Committee from the Home Office, January 2017
43 , page 5; para 3.15
18 April 2017