Whitehall inefficiency a thing of the past?

After the government allegedly exceeded its own target to save £21.5bn from its last efficiency drive – the ‘Gershon’ programme 2004-7 – and actually save £26bn, you would think there is little left for the National Audit Office to do. Just issue the odd report saying how well Whitehall is doing and then nip out for some golf.

So this week alone we have (for details see NAO):


The project to replace the UK’s ageing Anti Air Warfare capability, which is currently provided by the Type 42 destroyer, has suffered significant delays of over two years and costs have escalated to some £6½ billion, up by nearly 30 per cent from initial estimates of £5 billion. More recently, the project has progressed well, with key milestones, such as completion of sea trials, being met, according to a report released today by the National Audit Office.


An initiative, begun in 2004, by the National Offender Management Service to build a single offender management IT system for the prison and probation services has not delivered value for money. A National Audit Office investigation found the project had been hampered by poor management leading to a three-year delay, a doubling in project costs and reductions in scope and benefits. 

More recently, the National Offender Management Service has made progress in getting the project back on track; but the core aim of the original project of a single shared database of offenders will not be met. The Service has however reduced the number of databases used from 220 to three.

The project to provide an IT system to support a new way of working with offenders was to be introduced by January 2008, and had an approved lifetime cost of £234 million to 2020. By July 2007, £155 million had been spent on the project, it was two years behind schedule, and estimated lifetime project costs had risen to £690 million.  The Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice called a halt to the project while options to get the budget under control were sought.

Still, never mind – now the government plans to ‘save’ £30bn and another £5bn has been thrown in for good measure. Soon the NAO will be redundant. But not yet, not yet.

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