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'Spectacular failure' of prison IT plan

A PLAN to bring in a new IT system for the prison in London and probation services was condemned as a "master class in sloppy project management" after a report found rocketing costs and delays.

The Ministry of Justice and the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) had intended a single IT system to manage offenders across the prison and probation services to be ready by January 2008, at an expected cost of 234 million pounds(US$322 million).

But a report by the spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) said poor management of the project had resulted in a three-year delay while its costs had doubled.

The NAO said that by July 2007, projected costs had risen to 690 million pounds, forcing the Justice Secretary to intervene to halt the project to bring it under control.

Most of the delays and excessive costs could have been avoided had the NOMS followed basic management procedures, it added.

A new, revised, project costing 513 million pounds and due by March 2011 was now being worked on, although the original aim of producing a single system had now been dropped.

The number of databases used by the services would be reduced from 220 to three.

Edward Leigh, chairman of the Commons' Public Accounts Committee, described it as a "spectacular failure" that followed "blunder after blunder" by senior managers.

"What they delivered was a master class in sloppy project management," he said. "All of this mess could have been avoided if good practice in project management had been followed."


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