back to article Crim-checker IT system update fail has cost UK taxpayer 'MEEELLIONS'

MPs have slammed the IT overhaul behind the UK government's Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), which is running three years late resulting in a "missed opportunity" to save the taxpayer millions. The DBS enables employers to check people's background against police databases such as criminal records and government lists of …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "MPs have slammed..."

    While it's good to see higher-ups expressing their discontent, I have to wonder what impact is this actually going to have.

    It seems that UK Government IT projects are undying zombies, forever feasting on more and more money and nobody can stop them.

    I guess, if enough pressure is maintained, maybe somebody will get early retirement ?

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: "MPs have slammed..."

      How much impact?

      "Have you any idea how much damage that bulldozer would suffer if I just let it roll straight over you?""

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And the people wrongly fired because of an incorrect DBS/CRB check ?

    What happens to them ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And the people wrongly fired because of an incorrect DBS/CRB check ?

      Nothing because the DBS/CRB is done before you start the job. There could be an issue with the 2 yearly update but I'm sure if you explained to an employer it was wrong they should know them well enough to give them time to sort it out. (I would hope)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: DBS/CRB is done before you start the job

        You left out the key word: supposed There were many stories where people had started jobs pending a CRB check, got an incorrect CRB check and thus "let go". By the time they had the correct CRB check the vacancy had been filled.

        To be fair, I've not heard so much bad about DBS checks. But I suspect they've also changed the safeguarding requirements.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: DBS/CRB is done before you start the job

          Do we suppose people with criminal records that stop them getting a job still apply for that job and pay for the DBS/CRB knowing full well they won't get employed?

          That's next level stupid that.

        2. macjules Silver badge

          Re: DBS/CRB is done before you start the job

          Seen it in 2012 and 2013 where contractors had to undergo full DV and some of the CRB checks came back 'negative'. IIRC Home Office had to pay out quite a lot to a contractor agency in compensation, especially as some of their contractors were practically frog-marched out of Horseferry Road by police.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: And the people wrongly fired because of an incorrect DBS/CRB check ?

      If people got an incorrect check, I haven't noticed it in the story. What else may have happened is that their check document was provided late or not at all, in which case, as noted, their appointment or promotion may be delayed or cancelled.

      1. rh587 Bronze badge

        Re: And the people wrongly fired because of an incorrect DBS/CRB check ?

        If people got an incorrect check, I haven't noticed it in the story.

        Back around 2012 there was a big hoohaa when it emerged that up to 20,000 CRB returns were for the wrong person or contained inaccurate data.

        Given the number of checks performed each year, even a 0.01% error rate will amount to four-figure numbers of errors. It's rare, but employers must be aware that errors happen and if someone calls that, then simply withdrawing the offer of employment without engaging in due diligence regarding the DBS's claims is a grossly unfair thing to do.

    3. Korev Silver badge

      Re: And the people wrongly fired because of an incorrect DBS/CRB check ?

      A friend used to be an armed response copper. He would routinely “fail” CRB checks as the normal clerks couldn’t access his record. This “failure” caused a bit of a fuss at a school; until he got the headteacher to query it and tell the person on the phone to get their supervisor to check instead which then meant it came back clean.

  3. codejunky Silver badge

    Hmm

    And yet some people demand the gov take over even more through nationalisation.

    1. Lysenko

      Re: Hmm

      Nationalisation !== outsourcing:

      the Home Office contracted Tata to design, build and run a new IT system for the provision of DBS and transition existing services, including the update service, from Capita.

      Now, that's not to say that GDS have no skeletons in the closet and I don't work for HMG anymore, but I have yet to see an IT fiasco perpetrated by programmers on the direct civil service payroll that can compare with disasters the private sector (i.e. outsourcers) have orchestrated.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Hmm

        @ Lysenko

        "implying Tata bore about half the increase in costs as lower profits and passed the other half to DBS"

        and combine that with "The National Audit Office report shows that government took the unbelievable decision to launch it without testing it on customers first."

        But we should not worry, the gov can funnel more taxpayer money into it as always. And the line providing no shock at all-

        "the result is a missed opportunity to save schools, hospitals and taxpayers millions of pounds a year"

        "but I have yet to see an IT fiasco perpetrated by programmers on the direct civil service payroll that can compare with disasters the private sector (i.e. outsourcers) have orchestrated"

        Which brings the question of why they dont get the job. It is government wanting this product, it is government allocating the job to who they choose, it is the gov who choose to outsource. In fact its gov all the way down except for the very end point who are selected by the gov to do the job. Hence it is the gov's fault yet again.

        1. Lysenko

          Re: Hmm

          It is government wanting this product, it is government allocating the job to who they choose, it is the gov who choose to outsource. In fact its gov all the way down except for the very end point who are selected by the gov to do the job. Hence it is the gov's fault yet again.

          Sure, it is government all the down to the point where something is actually (not) achieved. I'm not defending HMG powerpoint ninjas project managers or procurement. They're ultimately responsible for this fiasco.

          The difference with an outsourcer vs. direct development staff is the latter are HMG rather than mere suppliers who both have to kowtow to the customer and have a perverse incentive to agree to every bit of scope creep because it means more work and therefore more money.

          In-house development teams have no such incentive. There is no concept of a "failed but profitable" project. They are therefore far more focussed on delivering core product, resist scope creep more fiercely and have lines of reporting capable of doing an end run around idiocy from the department specifying the requirements.

          The first point is the most important though: there should never be an incentive to agree to extra work or specification changes and the delivery team must have an independent chain of command that can say "no" without worrying about whether that annoys the end user or not.

        2. Alt C

          Re: Hmm

          Which brings the question of why they dont get the job. It is government wanting this product, it is government allocating the job to who they choose, it is the gov who choose to outsource. In fact its gov all the way down except for the very end point who are selected by the gov to do the job. Hence it is the gov's fault yet again.

          A very fair point codejunky and I'd have to say because there are not enough of them and neoliberalism. Sucessive governments both New Labour and Conservative have outsourced IT to the private sector, a dept with its own in house IT only have to lose one round of comparison to the private sector (who will lie about costs to get the contract) to lose that capability forever. Essentially in house IT keeps its head down and just delivers the goods (hence no press about some depts IT messing up).

          Where we are now is is at the epicenter of a number of policies coming home to roost.

          neoliberalism - outsource as many gov functions as possible leading to no in house specialism to keep the outsourced firms honest. Gov IT not allowed to bid on other department contracts because unfair.

          MBA's - short term profit over long term growth, load a company with debt and keep hoping those contracts roll in.

          Government - get rid of civil servants as they are all lazy and feckless, bring in consultants because shiney and hide every mistake behind 'commercial confidentiality'

          Its a bit simple to blame the gov all the way down but that fits the narrative that got us into this mess in the first place, gov do a bad job so let the private sector do it they are more efficient - except when they have no compitition either from gov depts able to do the job themselves or other outsourcing firms happy just to slice the pie up without making too many waves.

          No, Gov cannot do everything well and nor should it but its needs the capability in house to counterbalance the current excesses of the outsourcing compaines otherwise they will keep getting shafted.

  4. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Crapita involved............ say no more....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Never mind

      Crapita.

      Tata FFS, the "saviour" of British Steel.

      I wouldn't be surprised if they handed it to *Carillion...

      *I know!

    2. iron Silver badge

      "the Home Office contracted Tata to ... transition existing services, including the update service, from Capita."

      So no, not Crapita for once.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        @iron, It may be that Tata are still transitioning from Crapita, the only thing that comes out of them fast , is ex employees.

  5. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Research is hard

    This isn't like digging a railway tunnel under London or building an LHC.

    This involved developing a way for records to be retrieved knowing only a person's name, date of birth, national insurance number and address.

    Possibly one day super smart AIs will be able to achieve this almost as well as a person with a filing cabinet - but for now it is a difficult problem and sometimes the outcome of cutting edge research is unpredictable

  6. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    News headlines

    "Government IT project is over budget, and failing to deliver"

    "Dog Bites Man"

    "Sun rises this morning"

    "Water is wet"

    1. Alt C

      Re: News headlines

      To play devils advocate here:

      Gov IT delivers contract on time and to budget

      doesn't make much of a headline does it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: News headlines

        doesn't make much of a headline does it?

        Go on then, give us the list of successful, on budget, on time, fully functioning government projects. I'm sure there must be some. I'm equally sure the list isn't going to be a very long one.

        1. Alt C

          Re: News headlines

          just like the same list won't be long in the private sector either - i've spent more time in the private sector watching IT projects mess up by the numbers than I have in the public sector but the private sector doesn't have a PAC to wash the dirty linen for them.

          BTW the civil service isn't allowed to list the things it does well as that is considerd party politicking, you would have to ask the government why they don't trumpet the things that go right in gov IT and yes there are some - not as much as there should be but I'd once again suggest the ones which get it right are in house responsive teams rather than outsourced 'charge an extra 60K for moving a field' contracts - which as mentioned goes against the everything the civil service does is crap narrative.

          1. Korev Silver badge

            Re: News headlines

            Some examples of public sector IT projects going well would seem like a good series of articles.

            1. Commswonk Silver badge

              Re: News headlines

              Some examples of public sector IT projects going well would seem like a good series of very short articles.

              FTFY.

  7. Wolfclaw Silver badge

    Why are we paying for Tata to not fulfil their contractual obligations, we should be screwing them in penalties ???

  8. Rob Daglish

    Really?

    "The National Audit Office report shows that government took the unbelievable decision to launch it without testing it on customers first."

    Surely anyone who has read this site can believe the above statement with ease? I mean, testing costs money, right?

  9. andyp-random-number

    It currently works smoothly

    TBH I have just had a CRB / DBS check done and paid for by myself and thought it went very smoothly...which almost knocked me sideways. I did it through MENCAP. I ticked boxes, paid, emailed stuff off and the certificate arrived.

    ...it's not often I don't struggle with Government stuff. The SA tax stuff just had me screaming. It started off by me entering a valid user ID only to be given a cryptic error message to call "this number", which resulted in about 10 mins of listening to options I had no idea about, then spoke to someone who told me I had entered the wrong ID....apparently I have 2 IDs. No idea why. They had to letter me my proper ID. In this modern day and age it all felt so clunky.

    DBS 10 / 10

    SA Tax 4/ / 10

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    Is anyone else thinking.....

    "So Mr Warboys do you have any unspent criminal convictions?"

    "No"

    "Excellent, well then you can start your new job driving our year 10 students to the swimming baths next Monday."

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missed Opportunities to Save Millions

    It's Friday so I'm easily confused especially by "resulting in a "missed opportunity" to save the taxpayer millions" and "Combine this with an IT overhaul currently running three and a half years late, and the result is a missed opportunity to save schools, hospitals and taxpayers millions of pounds a year.".

    Schools and hospitals are funded by taxpayers (ignoring the small percentage of private institutions) so when schools and hospitals use the system, the institution's taxpayer provided budget is being used to pay for the checks and therefore redistributed to whoever is charging for the system. If this is a government department then money is just being shuffled around so there is no 'loss' to the taxpayer as the money is just going back into government coffers (bar shuffling costs). If it is a private firm then the government have made a decision to give that taxpayer money away and had no intention of taxpayers' money remaining within the public finance system, in which case they can't complain about wastage.

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