back to article MPs brand BlackBerrys for bobbies scheme a failure

Splurging £71m on BlackBerrys for bobbies on the beat was an almost total waste of money, according to a report from MPs. The Public Accounts Committee said today that the scheme was supposed to reduce paperwork, so coppers could be out and about more and save the force £125m. Instead, the programme only saved a paltry £600,000 …

COMMENTS

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Facepalm

F**king great. More taxpayer £s wasted.

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Anonymous Coward

Why are we surprised? Instigated by morons, advised by idiots implemented by Plods, overseen by committee, managed by half wits.......

It's IT and the Government is involved? This is no surprise is it.

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Bronze badge

Actually no!

The people who implement this kind of IT are not morons or halfwits, and so on, but then you know nothing about Government IT.

IT professionals within government have to operate within a dysfunctional funding system which means funding for x initiative is available for y period, if you don't spend it in that period it's gone. Y is never long enough.

All this is done by politicians and their creatures, who wouldn't know IT if it slapped them in the face. un-fortunately their plan to blame the IT professionals seems to have worked with you.

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Coat

Street Cred

Yeah but think of their street cred. Now they're using the same mobe as the crack dealers...

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Silver badge

Hardly surprising

All government agencies have their own preservation as the top priority

Hence, any change provides an excuse to add cost, bureaucracy, oversight, additional management and more "information". Even going back to the old ways adds more supervision, time, people and cost into the department.

Just as 1984 is the de-facto handbook for government surveillance of it's enemies - or "citizens" as we used to be known, so Little Dorritt¹ has been the "bible" of every government department for the past 150 years. The only way to break free of the ever-increasing costs, restriction, required-approvals and form-filling is a very long wall and an outsourced firing squad. Sadly, the revolution's been cancelled on Health and Safety grounds - until a full risk assessment is completed.

[1] The Circumlocution Department, specifically

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All these Blackberrys were a complete waste of money.

Your sincereley,

Joe Politician

[Sent from my "other waste of taxpayer money" iPad]

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Gold badge

Interesting conclusion

I find it fascinating that a government which has the ability to buy in gazillions does not manage to use that leverage to control the prices. Centralising procurement was exactly done for that reason, so which muppets were running that show?

Methinks a couple of carpets need to be lifted, closets opened and bank/expense accounts examined - I may be crap at accounting but I do smell figures *NOT* adding up here. This warrants an investigation, and pronto.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Interesting conclusion

No investigation, please! That's just an excuse to create another quango and employ another department of civil servants (what is the collective noun for civil servants anyway?).

Just sack the person who runs the department that agreed to this. That's why they have the job - to have responsibility and to be accountable for the actions of the people in their department.

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Vic
Silver badge

Re: Interesting conclusion

> what is the collective noun for civil servants anyway?

A "nescience" ?

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Interesting conclusion

I believe the collective term is a clusterf**k

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Pint

Re: Interesting conclusion

Typical of government agencies though... Look at the US Department of Defense with its $600 hammers and $2,000 toilet seats, both of which are available in Lowes or Home Depot or Menards for $10-50...

More recently, when I worked for the US Postal Service, USPS HQ went to mandatory buying contracts for such things as office and maintenance supplies, at a cost of 10-50% more than local procurement, but the mandatory contract gave pencil pushers at HQ more control over just what we were allowed to buy. The prices under the contracts were higher than buying the same item at the local store for the supplier rather than online. And of course, any local vendors were cut completely out of the loop.

It's wine o'clock somewhere but El Reg refuses to give me a wine glass, so horse piss will have to do...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Interesting conclusion

It's not just government. I used to work for an American software firm in Switzerland (who had taken over a Swiss firm). Everything, even a USB stick, had to be bought via California and then sent to Switzerland. Our ID cards, perhaps not the tea and coffee, but everything else went this route, even if one could just pop round the corner to STEG and buy the same thing, same make, same model for a quarter of the price, avoiding transport costs and loss of time. Even our electronic door system was controlled from California. I should say, in may experienence, an awful lot of USA firms act this way.

By the way, been away a while: a Crime commissioner and a Police commissioner? I thought police dealt with crime as crime and other policing matters tend to be linked. Elected ones making things more efficient? i.e. amateurs, like the elected Home Sectretary and other elected heads of ministries and departments? Who makes these inane statements?

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It'll be the same result for iPad for MPs (waste of money) but they won't acknowledge that.

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Pint

It won't matter anyhow... most of the MP's, like our Congress critters, are computer illiterate and will just put it on the corner of the desk and have their cleaning lady dust it once a week.

Wine o'clock somewhere... I could use a nice bottle of pinot noir right about now.

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Silver badge
Paris Hilton

Did anyone else read that as boobies?

I really couldn't work out why seabirds needed to be given fruit.

Yep, the specs, please.

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Thumb Up

Re: Did anyone else read that as boobies?

Aye, I read the same thing. Its too much time on the internet looking at birds - Great Tits etc.

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Unhappy

Again!

Once again the Public Accounts Committee concludes that a public sector project was a stupid idea that wasted taxpayers' money.

Is there any chance of getting them to do this before the money is wasted in future?

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Silver badge

Re: Again!

They looked at it but it meant replacing the GAO and PAC with a single intern txting "well duh" about each suggested project.

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Silver badge

Central Contract

Surely thats the opposite of how it should work - bulk buying is supposed to bring a discount!

Time to remove the negociator... By the sounds of it we dont need to worry about him negociating a worrysome exit package.

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FAIL

Your money at work, I think not.

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Silver badge
FAIL

more good news for RIM

Even cops don't like having to carry around butt ugly 2007ish phones.

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Silver badge

"The Office spokesperson said that this time things would be different."

They said that last time (and the time before that).

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Anonymous Coward

As one police civilian said to me: "Give a crap policeman a PDA and he's just a crap policeman with a PDA...it doesn't make him Robocop". When will forces and the wider government learn that the technology is just a means to enable change, the change itself has to be carefully managed to ensure the deliver of actual business benefit.

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Anonymous Coward

Heh,

Our local officers were issued with BlackBerry phones two or three years ago...

The local force spent a large amount of money developing a cut down version of the command and control system for officers to access incidents out on the beat accept it couldn't do all of the necessary functions mandated by the pencil pushers so officers still needed to sit down in front of a computer during their shifts.

There was no crime reporting functionality and other necessary reports such as anti-social behaviour (a neighbourhood officer's bread and butter) reports can not be done on the phone. Intelligence and suspect photos were not available to officers.

What's more, the officers couldn't take photos for use as evidence and transfer them simply, the process was convoluted and difficult for most IT illiterate officers. The officers were not allowed to actually make any phone calls on their phone so any phone calls to local partners (council, social services, schools etc) and victims of crime meant a trip to the nick.

Last year the force went to a new command and control system that doesn't work with the BlackBerrys and I now rarely see them using them. The only functionality left is basic email usage. I am not totally sure but I believe diary management for booked appointments was not implemented.

Had the force gone with iOS devices, the story may have been different due to the possibilities of application development etc but cost meant BlackBerry was the preferred solution.

In summary, the concept was actually a good one (not just give plod technology for fun) but since the devices were designed and implemented by pencil pushers and IT guys with advice for the occasional police officer who works in training and has not been on the streets for years, the project failed. The devices and software simply did not do what they should have done.

What's not being mentioned here is the same pot of money was used to develop putting computers into cars (mobile data). When done right, officers can access a full suite of applications including incidents, crime reports, intelligence and can do all tasks such as paperwork, forms, research, statements etc. This has got to have cut costs with officers being able to read incidents on the go and the requirement for less controllers and intelligence staff.

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Facepalm

Why do they not trial these sorts of things first?

I'd have thought this was perfectly suited to have a trial - say half-a-dozen forces of different sizes and locations being issued with Blackberries and seeing how much time/paper it saves.

Why do politicians always assume they're going to be right about "money-saving" ideas, when so very frequently these schemes seem to cost far more than they save? Why is testing an idea before rolling it out considered so infrequently?

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Anonymous Coward

BBs on the beat

One large metropolitan force did run a proper evaluation of front-line mobile data options, built what the cops wanted and said would be useful and trained them to use it. This was a few years before the government pushed them out to all forces.

The system provided full summarised information on people or vehicles, including pictures. It was expanded to allow officers to take photos at a crime scene and email them back. It all worked and returned a many-fold benefit against the investment. Leeds University Business School studied the system and confirmed the benefits. It even featured on Look North, so it must be true.

Big, central government projects tend to fail due to the complexitiies of pushing a single solution to a complex environment (NSPIS, anyone?). It's easier to make a local solution work, and as long as it's done with an eye to the overall strategy they can be successful and contribute to the general good.

But no politician would get the credit.

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