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Audit Scotland highlights poor management of IT projects

Three key IT projects run by the Scottish Government have been criticised by Audit Scotland for either being delayed, cancelled or significantly increasing in cost.

Registers of Scotland spent £112m on an ICT provision contract, despite the original cost estimated at £66m. Disclosure Scotland has spent £19m on a Protecting Vulnerable Groups programme which is now expected to be delivered 18 months later than planned.

Additionally, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service spent £2.3m on a new programme which was cancelled in November 2010 due to increased costs and a reduction in budgets.

The Audit Scotland report stated: “A key factor in the failure to deliver the programmes as intended was the public sector bodies’ lack of specialist skills and experience.

“This contributed to a lack of understanding about the complexity of the programmes and an over-reliance on the supplier for key decisions affecting the design and implementation of the necessary technology.”

Auditor General for Scotland Caroline Gardner added: “Scotland’s public bodies invest heavily in ICT, spending about £740m a year, and there are several major programmes under way across the public sector.

“We examined three programmes – which have cost more than £130m in total so far – that were delayed or cancelled in order to learn lessons for other public sector projects.

“We found significant weaknesses in how they were planned, managed and overseen. Some of this arose from a lack of specialist skills, but there were also flaws in areas of basic project management that apply to capital works of all types.

“The Scottish government needs to address these weaknesses and strengthen its strategic oversight of ICT investment to ensure the public sector delivers programmes that improve public services and provide value for money.”

A spokesperson for Scottish Government said: “We will look closely at Audit Scotland's recommendations to ensure that future contracts and programmes are as effective as possible, improve services and deliver full value for taxpayers' money.”

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