back to article UK Home Office's £885m crim records digi effort: A 'masterclass in incompetence'

The UK government's digitization of its Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) – a system for checking criminal records – is "a masterclass in incompetence," according to a damning report by the government's spending watchdog. In a dossier published today, Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the modernisation …

  1. ArrZarr Silver badge
    FAIL

    There are no more jokes

    Every joke about Govt. Digital projects failing has been used, re-used, turned into a horse, been killed, been beaten, been stomped flat, been turned into mince, added to a lasagne, eaten, digested, excreted, flushed and processed.

    It is dead, kaput. IT IS AN EX JOKE.

    but please, try to be more original than me while trying not to cry due to the sheer uselessness of our government.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: There are no more jokes

      You just have to say, "Home Office, Capita and Tata". We know that means "contract cost overrun, failure to deliver, TITSUP and chronic incompetence".

      Home Office should just be thankful that TCS didn't publish their AWS PEM keys on GitHub.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >> be thankful that TCS didn't publish their AWS PEM keys on GitHub.

        Actually you have to look under the sub-contracting intern's account: https://github.com/flybynight/sendmetehcodez

        (I found this by searching Stack Overflow for "Ugrent!!1! Help me for my UK govt project")

    2. Kane Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: There are no more jokes

      Every joke about Govt. Digital projects failing has been used, re-used, turned into a horse, been killed, been beaten, been stomped flat, been turned into mince, added to a lasagne, eaten, digested, excreted, flushed and processed...without an order, signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public enquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters.

      There, fixed that for you.

      There's always another joke, if you're prepared to look!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There are no more jokes

      "but please, try to be more original than me while trying not to cry due to the sheer uselessness of our government."

      It's not "the government" as such. This is an ongoing issue with public sector IT projects in general. In fact Labour have been a larger historical fail in this space, but that's mostly coincidental rather than related to specific policies. We can for instance thank Labour for inventing PFI and outsourcing large chunks of the NHS and many other public services. Which was then continued by the Conservatives.

      The main issue is primarily that pay rates and benefits for IT employees in permanent government roles are in the bottom quartile. So they get the dregs. Yes they hire lots of contractors for roles that they simply can't get any permanent employees for, but that doesn't fix the skill level of the incumbents that specify this stuff and make the decisions.

      If the government paid decent commercial salaries and benefits for IT employees it would likely actually cost less in the long term because it would remove the need for so many contractors and would reduce the amount of catastrophic failures. However that's not going to happen as every other government employees including Police, Fire, Nurses, Doctors, etc would then be saying me too!

      1. Buzzby
        Big Brother

        Re: There are no more jokes

        Sorry to be a pedant bit PFI was a Tory invention but Labour took it and used it as you described, the idiots! I can agree with you over the rest.

        I considered that the most politically stupid thing Labour ever did. Good old Tory Blair.

    4. Chris Parsons

      Re: There are no more jokes

      I'm staggered you got 2 downvotes. Daily Mail reader?

  2. djstardust

    It's not funny at all

    It's our taxpayers money being flushed down the shitter when GB PLC is already in a financial mess.

    If it wasn't for all those multi million pound homes being bought by the Russians and Chinese with dodgy money where would we really be?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not funny at all

      "If it wasn't for all those multi million pound homes being bought by the Russians and Chinese with dodgy money where would we really be?"

      Living in affordable properties?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TCS didn't have a clue what they were getting into. Strategy on how to proceed changed literally on a day-to-day basis, and management was, to put it politely, inept (or at least well out of their depth).

    That being said Capita didn't help matters by being, well, Capita and blocking and being generally as difficult as possible throughout.

  4. Mr Gullible

    A government project outsourced to India and Capita goes very badly wrong - where's the news angle?

    1. Daniel von Asmuth Bronze badge
      Coat

      Where's the news angle?

      That would be the fact that this one cost ten times the amount of other major failed government IT projects and tthe author fails to explain the exorbitant cost. Other countries have enough incompetence of their own.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "a masterclass in incompetence,"

    this is so beyond ironic and obvious, that it's just... shrug. Carry on. Nothing to see here. The threshold of what is expected from such project is so low now (= nil), that people don't care any more. I find it rather unsettling, when "they" don't care, and we don't care they don't care, so they know we don't care they don't care so they can carry on without even the slightest shadow of concern they'll be held accountable, ever.

  6. sal II

    No Clue

    "The Home Office and TCS now accept that, when the contract was signed in 2012, no one had a good enough understanding of what it would take to make the programme successful"

    The real problem is that 6 years later they still have no understanding of what would take to make it successful...

    1. Roger Varley

      Re: No Clue

      I might just be able to accept that TCS might have been out of their depth, but the fscking Home Office should certainly have known what they wanted and needed from the new digitised system. It was their fscking system in the first place.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is nothing compared to..

    what will happen if "Max Fac" prevails as the answer to the UK leaving the EU Customs Union. The UK needs the reintroduction of the death sentence for politicians who won't be told and the lackeys supporting their pipedreams.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Then it will be done brilliantly*

      and it doesn't matter if the technology isn't ready in time**

      *Johnson

      **Gove

    2. Thicko

      Re: This is nothing compared to..

      Those turkeys are hardly likely to vote for Christmas!

  8. Bogle
    Happy

    Shout out

    Well done, Meg Hillier, on a giving us such a superb quote. I'm looking forward to more.

  9. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Encore un fois...

    Once again... PAC get angry, projects feign concern; nothing changes.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As per usual

    The issue is the public sector being incapable of actually drafting contracts/requirements that are watertight.

    I've seen this at 3 places now. They're so desperate to get the contract over the line (trebles all around! congratulatory email!) that they fall for the same under-specified crap each time. When it all goes wrong they don't want to admit it, so the contract gets extended for more gravy train.

    I've actually lost count of the times where public sector orgs buy expensive software / support contracts and as the person tasked to implement it the first I know is when I get the license keys. The concept of doing a trial with test keys is absolutely beyond them.

    But, it's only taxpayers money, so...

    1. Jon 37

      Re: As per usual

      The purchasing process was designed to purchase the cheapest possible items when you're buying huge amounts of well-specified commodity physical items. They stick out an RFP with the specs, and buy the cheapest.

      It utterly fails at dealing with things that aren't commodities.

      A "commodity" is something where there's a market for the things and they're pretty much the same and interchangeable, like sugar or crude oil.

      Bespoke software development is about as far from a commodity as you can possibly get. For a start, the idea that there will be good specs at the beginning of such a project is a fantasy - it's impossible to do that as some developer will always find a way to screw up that the specifier hadn't anticipated. The only truly complete spec is a working system.

      And since the purchase process is built around the fantasy of specs, it doesn't incorporate trials.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: As per usual

        "And since the purchase process is built around the fantasy of specs, it doesn't incorporate trials."

        There was a time when bidding for a UK government project actually meant building the prototype system speculatively and passing trials with it. Only then did someone in the Civil Service/Government decide who was actually going to get some money to deliver the final system.

        A canny supplier would try to make sure they were effectively "advising" the Government department on the writing of the bidding spec. Thus mandating their own system's unique features and capabilities.

  11. SVV Silver badge

    And who was in charge at the Home Office then?

    Drum roll please.................

    Theresa May!

  12. cantankerous swineherd

    this is what happens when you let managers run things.

  13. adam payne Silver badge

    "The Home Office and TCS now accept that, when the contract was signed in 2012, no one had a good enough understanding of what it would take to make the programme successful," said the report.

    You only now accept? If you had no understanding of what it would take to get this done then you have no business signing a contract and spending tax payers money.

    Do you now have an understanding?

  14. Dr_N Silver badge
    Joke

    Improvement Through Adversity

    At least uk.gov learns from its IT mistakes.

    1. HypG

      Re: Improvement Through Adversity

      Your new here aren't you??

      1. Dr_N Silver badge

        Re: Improvement Through Adversity

        >Your new here aren't you??

        Not so green as to not know where the "Joke Alert!" icon is situated.

      2. rskurat
        Windows

        Re: Improvement Through Adversity

        The joke alert icon is one of the useful ones there is

    2. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: Improvement Through Adversity

      At least uk.gov learns from its IT mistakes.

      Are you kidding? it doesn't even learn IT from its mistakes, nevermind learn from its IT mistakes.

  15. Sooty

    The department had contracted Tata Consultancy Service (TCS)

    Well There's your problem.

    I wouldn't trust TCS to successfully open a can of beans... that was already open

    1. handleoclast Silver badge

      Re: The department had contracted Tata Consultancy Service (TCS)

      I wouldn't trust TCS to successfully open a can of beans... that was already open

      I would trust them to open the can.

      Since it's already open, they only way they could open it is by applying the opener to the bottom end. That requires inverting the can, which would dump all the beans in their lap. They would then, obliviously, open the can and claim success.

  16. Lyndon Hills 1

    Tragicomic

    The idea that it may not be fixed before the contract expires is almost funny.

    Presumably we then sign another contract with a new suppier and start all over again, perhaps with some lessons learned.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tragicomic

      "[...] perhaps with some lessons learned."

      By which time the environment will have changed. Then applying what they believe they have learned - merely creates new mistakes.

  17. Conspectus83
    Alert

    Dribbling!

    Once BREXIT gets going the Reg will be dribbling with anticipation for the stories that will emerge.

    This latest debacle will fade into insignificance once the true stories of BREXIT start to emerge.

    Its going to be eye wateringly expensive running preBREXIT systems with BREXIT systems.

    The Reg has mentioned DEFRA\RPA over the past few months and I know it will be the most fertile area for projects that will make you go WTF.

    What can we do about it, apparently 'F' all.

  18. Milton Silver badge

    Totally Crap Service

    Everything that hadn't been clear about this disaster became transparent when the letters "TCS" appeared. That company of buffoons has been infesting at least one major British airline of my acquaintance for many years now, and their performance is ... bad beyond belief.

    Then again, if your client has the kind of imbecilic IT and general management that will actually pay £1m for a simple app—more than once!—perhaps it deserves everything it gets.

    Ex-military types being an honorable exception, British corporate senior management is simply the utter pits. Give me a British ex-officer, or any German, any time.

  19. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Nonsense

    Every joke about Govt. Digital projects failing has been used, re-used, turned into a horse, been killed,.....

    Every joke about Govt. Digital projects failing has, gone platinum, played in west end and Broadway for several centuries and broadcast for all twelve days of christmas since the alleged birth of a sun god (morning and matinee) and chorasters have toured the country in hot air balloons reciting it end to end in high and plain chant.

    We just need new material (I'm sure they'll be new failures), new writers, (a new government preferably) it's still a bloody joke.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nonsense

      "[...] a new government preferably [...]"

      Sadly the truism applies: "whoever you vote for - the Government always gets in".

      Polite ahem - it is "choristers".

  20. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

    it's not just them

    'no one had a good enough understanding of what it would take to make the programme successful'

    Well that's a good start.

    I had to point out to a (very large and I would hope secure company) That the procedure that they required me to go through would be out of date by the time I competed it. Turns out that the changes mentioned on the desclosure government website were wrong and I still had to use the old system. England Scotland and Wales or something, I live in one and was going to work in one of the others. One phone call and I got sent the certificate, absolute crap tbh, they didn't even verify my ID properly and this is meant to be a seriously secure site!

  21. AdamWill

    Government press release announcing report:

    "Report on Disclosure and Barring Service calls it 'A masterpiece...'"

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Criminal records check? How much did you say?

    > The DBS enables employers to check people's background against police databases such as criminal records and government lists of people considered unsuitable to work with children or vulnerable adults.

    Eh? That is exactly what we can do where I live in the continent, by paying a notary a small sum we get a full criminal record check in a matter of minutes.

    Mind, you cannot ask for anyone else's criminal records and (save for military/government work) it is against the law for an employer to have that information too.

    In any event, pretty sure we didn't pay anywhere near ¾ of a billion for what is essentially a restricted gateway to the police database.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    1. handleoclast Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: A masterpiece

      Ah, the Tate Gullible Modern. Gotta love 'em.

      I shat my bed in my sleep a couple of years ago, after a night of heavy drinking, a vindaloo, and some more heavy drinking. It was really runny, and I rolled around in it while I was still asleep. It went everywhere. The Tate Gullible gave me half a million for it. Tracey Emin was sooooooo jealous.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "[...] what is essentially a restricted gateway to the police database."

    what is essentially a unrestricted gateway to the police database.

    FTFY

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ta ta....

    ... all that money

  26. ScottME
    Holmes

    Have there been any successful government IT projects?

    It's hardly news that yet another government IT project has gone wrong. The degree of incompetence displayed is almost the only variable factor.

    But there must have been some successful projects? Surely? Maybe it'd be worth examining those to see what went right, then try to replicate the process?

  27. Snapper
    FAIL

    "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

    I think the Civil Service motto (above) now has to be seriously questioned.

    Perhaps a Public Enq......Oh!

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ESN has been walking dead for years!

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/01/08/airwave_tetra_switch_off_gov_services_onmishambles/

    Huawei were dead right! I doubt any heads will roll though.

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