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‘No guarantee’ major Gov IT project won’t go over budget…again

‘No guarantee’ major Gov IT project won’t go over budget…again

Tuesday 30 March 2021

‘No guarantee’ major Gov IT project won’t go over budget…again


There is “no guarantee” that the Government’s largest ever IT project won’t go over its new £63 million budget - after already doubling the initial planned £28m cost - the Chief Operating Officer has admitted.

During a hearing with the Public Accounts Committee, John Quinn said he couldn’t guarantee the project’s business case was “right” or that “final requirements” would not still be added.

The Government recently revealed it had significantly underestimated the cost and scope of its ‘Integrated Technology Solution’ programme, which was initially expected to cost £28m but will now cost £63m in total.

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Pictured: John Quinn, the Chief Operating Officer.

Yesterday, Deputy Inna Gardiner, the Chair of the PAC, quizzed the Government's Chief Operating Officer about the project, and whether it was achieving “value for money."

The St. Helier representative questioned whether any comparison had been made between the amount Jersey will have spent on the overhaul,  and what other jurisdictions of similar sizes had spent.

 “We spent £44 million for the last six years, we have extra 'sixty-plus' millions to spend going forward plus there will be extra to connect tax to social security,” she said.

“Basically, if you are thinking it’s £106 million… On which scale is Jersey standing with the spending on IT, modernisation within the Government?”

Mr Quinn said he didn’t have a comparison and went on to say he had reviewed where the Government was “against where you would expect a modern organisation." 

He added that a number of systems used by the Government, including the Social Security Department, were from “2005 ancient” and that no money had been spent on these systems for nearly 16 years. 

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Pictured: Some of the computer systems used in Government are from 2005 and haven't been updated since.

“The technology in 2005, the Nokia phone was the mobile phone of choice, it could receive phone calls, it could make texts and it had one game on it,” he said.

Deputy Gardiner said she was not questioning the need to “do a proper upgrade” but questioned what was being done to ensure the budgeting has been done correctly.

“We had a business case for £40 million which was developed with consultants and somehow we didn’t put contingencies there,” she said. “My worry and the public’s worry as well, how can we rely that this will be the final requirement, that you know exactly what needs to be done and within three years our systems will be upgraded at least.

“I understand with IT it is ongoing maintenance and ongoing updates, it’s never a finished project but hopefully it will not be costing dozens of millions it will be costing less going forward.” 

Mr Quinn said a detailed business case for the technology transformation programme overhaul had been provided as part of the Scrutiny of the 2020-2023 Government Plan.

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Pictured: Mr Quinn said he couldn't guarantee the business case was "right".

“To your point, this is, and I was always clear, this was the start, this was to get us with a sound infrastructure,” he added.

“Since that technology business case came along, we have had a whole lot of additional requirements that have come in, from health for example, to support the Jersey Care model, the new hospital will require completely different IT. Again most of the hospital IT is very old, we haven’t even started on many aspects of that, although we will do, we are starting with a new electronic patient record procurement, which is currently underway and that’s going to be a major piece of work.”

He then hesitantly added he couldn’t provide assurances that the project will not require additional funds on top of the £63 million budget.

“We’ve done the business case, I can’t guarantee it’s the right... or that we won’t have final requirements.”

“We are doing a full business case for each element,” he went on to say. “We did the outline business case for overall transformation, but each element has a full business case behind it.

“One of the things we are not doing is taking the money and running. What we are doing is taking the money and developing the business case and with the ITS is a good example, we developed from the outline business case the full business case and we went back to the Council of Ministers and we went back to the Chief Minister and said ‘this is the full business case, do you still want to go ahead’, rather than what might have happened with projects in the past, which might have started and then ran out of money.”

 

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Posted by Guy de Faye on
Over time, the cost of computer chips, hardware, software etc has steadily fallen OR items have remained costly due to hugely enhanced capabilities.

In contrast, IT within Government of Jersey has become an increasingly expensive embarrassment.

Before I returned to Jersey, I was told that the IT Department invested in MS software for every Islander. The cost was around £10 Million. I don't know how many were advantaged by the new "Windows" on personal computing, but the Australian head of IT apparently went back Down Under.

During my time as a minister (2005 - 208), the Health Department "forgot" to include a "desperately needed" IT requirement in their annual budget. Following a presentation that, frankly, insulted ministers' intelligence, Council of Ministers decided to overlook the fiscal incompetence and award an additional £12 Million+ for new equipment.

A few years later it emerged that Health had miscalculated and a further £12 Million was requested and granted to "complete the Health Department IT integration project". Now it seems that the new hospital requires "completely different IT", so how has that happened??

The gross incompetence has now spread across the entire public service, whilst initial substantial expenditure and failings have quietly slipped into the fog of history - hence my reminders!!

Two decades after the original IT scandals the scenario is now even worse. It seems that a further £44 Million has been spent over the last six years and the latest - estimated - £28 Million "Integrated Technology Solution" project has expanded to "at least" £63 Million.

I suggest there is overwhelming evidence that this government IT is wildly out of control and, in my view, there needs to be a thorough investigation before any further funds are expended, or indeed wasted - with limited exceptions for obvious need. Something is clearly badly wrong in the senior IT decision making arena and that must be resolved urgently.
Posted by Richard Lock on
I heartily agree with Guy de Faye that there shouldn’t be a blank cheque granted for this. We have a mechanism for fiscal/budgetary investigations- it’s called the Comptroller & Auditor General. But when has the GoJ ever taken any notice of any recommendations made by this highly professional and thorough department ? It is treated with utter disdain much like the States Complaints Commission. We need a once and for all independent probe into GoJ spending and procurement along the lines of that which was recently instigated at Liverpool City Council. Whoever does it can also take a look at the new hospital budget which is grotesquely out of control, with numbers apparently plucked out of the ether- let’s see an Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors standard bill of quantities for a start !
Posted by Harry Read on
As an ex IT manager I am constantly horrified by the figures bounced around by the IT Dept. As has been said they seem to be picked out of the air and do not have any factual backing. The apparently unconcerned way that the Senior Operating officer says I can't promise there won't be more cost challenges what his role is- surely it is up to him to make sure his team either delivers to cost or has a very good reason for going over - signed off before they overspend. I would be interested to see breakdown of the £63 million over equipment, personnel and consultants that could be very revealing.
Posted by Keith Marsh on
This is utter madness. Whoever agreed this open ended cheque book initially has many serious questions to answer.
Mr Quinn needs to do his job, and CONTROL his department.
I need to see the expected savings that the full IT system is supposed to bring, before I could change my view that the whole thing smells of UTTER Incompetence.
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