Careless with Cash: The Prisons Database

Today, Edward Leigh MP, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, called the failed National Offender Management Information System a "master class in sloppy project management."  The project, intended as a central database for convicted offenders, is now expected to cost £513 million, more than double its estimated budget of £234 million.  Not likely to come into use until early 2011, about three years later than initially projected, the project now has been replaced with a far less ambitious one with a new management team.


Not surprisingly, the National Audit Office credited delays and spiraling budget issues to "management oversight and the technical complexity of the project was significantly underestimated..."  and that "...budget monitoring was weak."  The Prisons Minister, David Hanson MP, has said that he found the NAO report to be "helpful."  Lack of preparation and planning, disregard for budget constraints, and an inability to take financial responsibility plagued this over-ambitious government project.  Any new project and lessons learned are too little, three years and more than £250 million too late.


Sound familiar?  Unfortunately, this is just one of many disastrous projects undertaken by over-eager government agencies lacking judgment and responsible management; the Chinook helicopter debacle at the MOD, the overdue and increasingly expensive NHS supercomputer to name just two.


Blunders like this are costing the taxpayers billions.  Its bad enough that British troops don't have the equipment they need and that hospitals still don't have the nationwide access to patient information they were promised, but these projects drain the stretched resources of taxpayers coping with the recession.  The government needs to realise that taxpayers are being more careful with their cash, and expect their leaders to be as well.

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