There are lies, damned lies and Cabinet Office statistics which give the impression that the Efficiency and Reform Group are achieving much more dramatic ICT savings than they actually are. Or so says a National Audit Office report, which again criticised the processes used to calculate how much money Government Digital Services …
91 whole £m.
I am impressed.
How much of this was by simply stopping dumb ass projects from going ahead in the first place I wonder?
Re: 91 whole £m.
I would hesitate to say preventing a project from taking place could be termed as a saving. You'd hope that there would be some purpose that was suppose to be fulfilled and now it won't be. Just think of all the money you could 'save' by scrapping all the spending on the police but I am not sure you'd find many people pushing for it.
Re: 91 whole £m.
If only someone had stopped the NHS backbone from taking place, that would have saved us a few billion. Now if they'd just take a look at HS2 ...
"GDS calculates savings based on cases where its directly "enforces" a change in a project's scope, which cancels or reduces costs. It then compares the revised and approved forecast to the original spend estimates submitted for approval."
You can bet as many civil servants worked on this numbers game as worked on the projects themselves. Also, I am at a loss as to how one can compare a 'forecast' to an 'original estimate' and conclude a saving has been made.
A "forecast" massively underestimates the true cost whereas an "original estimate" chronically and hysterically underestimates the true cost.
Savings wot savings
IT savings are always illusionary, the actual savings rarely meet expectations, as there's usually a cost involved, but these are glossed over and hidden. The current cabinet office mantras of use SMEs and Open Source are highly unlikely to save money, in the short term, and may even cost more.
I actually agree with this policy, but I'm not sure the politicians really understand the consequences. I keep hearing statement like Open Source is free, with the idea that it has no licence or support costs and it's cheap to develop.
They also want Agile development, but still done to Prince II with all the Waterfall documentation and contractual requirements.
PS I really wish the NAO could slap people
So what happened to the money?
I think the key issue on these savings that is seldom asked is ... 'What happens to the money'. Public sector financing is such that a department gets a big chunk of money each year and then spends it as it sees fit. GDS has some control over any of this spend that falls into IT. BUT (and here is the key bit) if GDS force a reduction in scope and reduce the costs of a programme .... what happens to the saved money... It doesn't go back to HMT (for such an act would be an admission from a department that they asked for too much, and impact budgets next year!), rather it is reallocated to AN Other IT project or area of spend. All departments run huge portfolios of projects and there is always a need for money. So the money isn't 'saved' at all.
I think rather than bemoaning a lack of evidence, the NAO should call Cabinet Office out and investigate the actual value being added by these layers of bureaucracy.
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