back to article Shared services centres supposed to save £128m saved £0... and cost £4m

Moves to shift departments' back office servers and ERP systems into two privately owned shared services centres - which had been touted as set to save the taxpayer £128m - have failed to prove "value for money", according to a report by the National Audit Office. The shared services centres, run separately by IT provider …

  1. Sooty

    "The programme will only achieve value for money in future if the Cabinet Office shows clear leadership"

    Little chance of that happening then, you can't really expect clear leadership from the government.

    1. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Surely the Cabinet Office isn't the government, it's Sir Humphrey.

      A man who shows clear leadership when it suits him, and not always in the direction of the government.

  2. Rob

    And everyone one of those muppets responsible for this cock-up will still keep their jobs and move onto the next project to right royally screw up.

  3. JMiles

    Shared Services?

    More like shared accountability which, if you are generous enough to share your responsibility means that no one is really responsible at all!

  4. 's water music Silver badge

    Seems legit

    The real story is surely Public Sector IT Project Losses Contained at 4% of Costs?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seems legit

      No, the real story is privatisation leads to worse outcome, yet again.

  5. TheOtherHobbes

    >their arm’s-length bodies.

    [Cthulhu joke goes here]

  6. Missing Semicolon Silver badge


    Once again, an article that's gone from "initial draft" to "publish" without any intermediate checking.

    "On one of the centres, and four customers have exited their contracts altogether"

    "All customers except the Department for Transport have exited the Arvato "

    There are others.

  7. J J Carter Silver badge

    GDS to the rescue!

    They will fail fast rather than take years.

  8. paulf Silver badge

    Based on that glowing report of unqualified success

    It will be bonuses all round, again!

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh what a surprise!!!!

    Dear [Enter department name here],

    We have recently noted that you are paying [a big number] for [something mildly useful]. Our shared service centre will, by buying efficiently in bulk ,save you [that big number multiplied by another big number we just made up].

    Your sincerely

    [Random management consultancy]

    followed a few years later by

    Dear [Enter department name here],

    We have unfortunately discovered that [a big number] for [something mildly useful] was actually quite a fair price, given how your professional and experienced purchasing staff weren't idiots. We however have to add a) our commission, b) charges for services provided by our [enter tax haven here] subsidiary and c) the cost of writing this letter [we learnt point c) from the banks :-)] . Because of this the price of [something mildly useful] will be [a fair amount] higher than before. Please send the dosh in a brown envelope to [enter tax haven here] promptly.

    Your sincerely

    [Shared service manager (formerly of Random management consultancy plc]]

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh what a surprise!!!!

      [Shared service manager (formerly of Random management consultancy plc]]

      I can do you one better on that one. How about running an audit by the NAO when the head of said NAO just "happens" to be a former senior partner in the organisation under audit?

      Yes, that really happened.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Oh what a surprise!!!!

        "How about running an audit by the NAO when the head of said NAO just "happens" to be a former senior partner in the organisation under audit?"

        And noone flagged this conflict of interest up at any step?

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. BurnT'offering

    Every GDS initiative has potential for massive savings

    Mostly realised when they stop doing them

  12. moonpunk

    I'm all for shared services...

    The principle is absolutely sound - why on earth would you have multiple departments buying the same functional solutions from multiple vendors? The problem of course (as we all know) is the absolutely fantastic level of incompetence shown by those in charge of both setting up and running the Shared Service, along with those local departments that insist on the "I want to be in control and run things myself" attitude.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These sorts of initiatives can be extremely beneficial - for the consultants, vendors, and public servant careerists who successfully promote the mostly imaginary benefits. I understand the Canadian government is having much the same experiences with its version of shared services Hell. The reality is that the vendors quickly figure out how to game whatever system is set up.

    Some years ago when I worked for the Canadian government, We were forced to buy IT hardware and software via standing offer arrangements with a few fortunate suppliers. This was supposed to save lots of money. In reality, the main effects were:

    1. You ended up buying underspeced and often obsolescent gear. Upgrades were exorbitantly expensive.

    2. Service was pathetically bad.

    3. You were effectively restricted to buying software from a handful of well known US companies.

    4. If you worked in an area, such as R&D, where the requirements did not fit the standard mold, at best it was difficult and time consuming to get what you needed, even if your management supported you. And God help you if they didn't.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019