The ‘eGov’ project to get government services digital has gone nearly £2million over its original budget, just months after red flags were raised over its spending patterns, Express can reveal.
Former States Chief Executive John Richardson confirmed in March last year that the project had been allocated a budget of £9.9million.
But an Express Freedom of Information (FOI) request has now revealed that the total spend stands at £11.6million.
The revelation comes just four months after a panel in charge of reviewing the escalating expenditure took the unusual step of urging the new States Chief Executive and Treasurer to review the eGov project over what they saw as an abnormality in the budget figures.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) requested to view the budgets in November 2017, but say that they weren’t given the information until two months later. The document the eGov Team eventually provided “in confidence”, showed a record of expenditure against budget.
Pictured: The project was originally given £9.9million, but now spending stands at £11.6million.
In reviewing that document, however, the PAC team said they were concerned to note that the expected amount of spend matched the actual amount spent “exactly.”
This “0% variance” sparked concerns that there had been “retrospective forecasting” – in other words, they feared that the budgeted figures had been added in later, rather than at the very beginning of the eGov project. Express has asked for a response from the e-Gov team to that, and other, concerns.
It led PAC to write to the new States Chief Executive, Charlie Parker, and Treasurer Richard Bell to ask them to investigate this, as well as providing a “detailed explanation of the delays to, and lack of detail of, eGov project budgets.”
Panel Chairman Constable Chris Taylor, explained that the PAC were sent “vast amounts of diagrams and spreadsheets” throughout the scrutiny process, but gave no evidence of concrete projects. He added that there was therefore no way to “measure progress” or to know if “something has gone wrong.”
Pictured: The new Chief Executive Charlie Parker (above) and the Treasurer were asked to investigate the eGov Team's budgets.
The PAC’s remarks were the second time in two years that the project had been criticised for its management. The Comptroller and Auditor General also warned that total costs had not been clearly calculated.
The original £9.9million budget was expected to fund improvements to the gov.je website, ensure that all States digital records ‘joined up’ via a single platform that meant islanders only had to share their details once, and that some budget would be allocated to individual app-style projects, such as LoveJersey.
Most crucially, however, the eGov project promised islanders a ‘Digital ID’ – a secure way to access all the information held by the government about them. That provider was revealed as mobile app Yoti by Express in January, before it was officially announced in March.
But by December last year, after concerns raised by Scrutiny panels, and criticism from the Chamber of Commerce as “a lesson in how not to run a project”, officials confirmed that the budget had been used up – without the main part being in place.
Pictured: The table of expenditure provided following an Express FOI.
As of 30 June 2018, total spend was at £11,616,000 – nearly £2million more than the project had originally been given.
The highest level of expenditure – nearly a third of the original budget – was spent on the ‘eGov Team’, with salaries and recruitment totalling £3.1million.
Express had also asked for the total costs of taking on Yoti, which is now being rolled out as an ID service at local bars - the eGov team posted a blog highlighting the information requested by Express one day before the FOI request was received back.
The blog did not provide the total expenditure so far, but instead stated a projection of the total cost across five years. It said the Council of Ministers approved a budget of £860,000 late last year, of which they expect to spend more than half (£550,000) by the end of 2018. They then believe £300,000 will be spent in 2019 to cover “product management, marketing, the cost of integrating further services, [and] a way for people who choose not to have a smart phone to be able to access online services that depend on a proven identity.”
Pictured: Smartphone app Yoti was chosen to be the official Digital ID provider.
However, this will not be the total cost – the blog states that the eGov Team want the Council of Ministers to approve an extra £250,000 of expenditure per year to “continue to create opportunities for use of your Digital ID.”
“The return on this investment depends on growing the number of Islanders who have Yoti and find it useful in multiple aspects of their everyday lives, including using it to access government services. So far, over 2,500 people in Jersey have downloaded the app. We will keep you up to date on progress as the number of users grows,” the blog read.
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