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Prison IT Plan Branded As A "Spectacular Failure" By NAO

A proposed project to employ a new IT system to manage criminals across prisons and probation services was dubbed as “masterclass in sloppy project management”, after a report observed hiked budgets and delays.

The proposed offender management system project, which is a joint effort from National Offender Management System (NOMS) and the Ministry of Justice, and intended to offer probation and prison officials to have real-time access to the offenders’ records, was scheduled to be deployed by January 2008, at a likely budget of £234 million.

But a report by the spending supervisory body National Audit Office (NAO) notified that “poor management” from the government not only delayed the project by three years, but the costs of the project had also doubled.

Back in July 2007, the NAO claimed that the project’s budget had increased to a whopping £690 million, compelling the Justice Secretary to interfere to stop the project, so as to keep a check over the rocketing costs.

A majority of the delays and rising costs could have been checked had the NOMS implemented fundamental management processes, the NAO added.

Although the primary aim of developing a single management system had been dropped, a revised project, which includes five management systems, having budget worth £513 million, is said to be completed by March 2011.

Commenting upon the poor management from the government in materializing the project in time, Edward Leigh, chairman Commons’ Public Accounts Committee, “What they delivered was a master class in sloppy project management. All of this mess could have been avoided if good practice in project management had been followed”

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Our Comments

It beggars belief how such things can happen in a country like United Kingdom. It looks as if project-managing huge governmental projects is doomed from the start. The list of late, over budget projects - NPfIT, the Court system, the ID card project to name a few- is absurdly long and it seems that the taxpayer very rarely get value for money.

Related Links

Prisons computer system 'a masterclass in sloppy project management', NAO finds (opens in new tab)


"Spectacular failure" of prison IT plan (opens in new tab)


'Spectacular IT failure' costs taxpayer millions (opens in new tab)

(Times Online)

Offender IT failure 'avoidable' (opens in new tab)


Government scraps criminal database after 'kindergarten mistakes' - but it still cost taxpayer millions (opens in new tab)

(Mail Online)

Offender tracking system 'fails' (opens in new tab)

(The Press Association)

Désiré Athow
Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.