Whitehall departments have continued to defy the laws of physics this year; it seems that when it comes to IT expenditure, what goes up doesn’t necessarily come down.
Despite funding cuts for Whitehall departments, it appears that the bureaucrats haven’t got over their penchant for shiny new tech, with IT running costs across Whitehall soaring by another 7 per cent this year to £4.6bn in 2014/15.
This latest revelation comes in the face of government plans to cut expensive IT contracts. Every single department managed to somehow misinterpret this goal by sending their IT costs skywards, all but one – special mention goes to the MoD who managed to cut their costs by 4 per cent to £1.7bn in 2014/15 (though that’s not to say they don’t like their fair share of waste too).
Demonstrating its proficiency in doublespeak, the Cabinet Office claimed that the Government Digital Service has managed to save £390m in a year through “ICT strategy savings.” However, upon closer examination of the balance sheets, it’s quite clear that most savings so far have come from new IT spending rather than the running costs of ongoing contracts.
In June the National Audit Office gave a damning verdict of the government’s “attempts” to save money. There was “little evidence” it said emphatically, that there had been much success. Savings? Methinks not.
The government must get its act together to traverse the murky quagmire of wasteful Whitehall IT contracts. It needs to have vision, it needs to be bold if it wants to tackle the problem head on and stop wasting billions of pounds of our money. Attempts so far have been lacklustre to say the least and billions of pounds remain locked in long-term transaction contracts.
Alan Mather, a former government IT chief, summed up the situation superbly. “There is a sense of ‘Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here’,” he said. It’s quite clear that when it comes to Whitehall spending on poor value-for-money IT contracts, the only way is UP!