The Government has not in general measured the benefits delivered by its two central internet services Directgov and Business.gov, and the infrastructure service Government Gateway, which together cost some £90 million a year, according to a report today by the National Audit Office. Government departments and other public bodies use Directgov, Business.gov and Gateway to provide information to the public and to support a range of government online services.
It is crucial that the Government Digital Service (GDS), established in March 2011 to implement a new strategy to deliver all government information services digitally, builds in the right mechanisms to achieve value for money as it plans the future of digital shared infrastructure and services.
Today’s report does conclude, however, that it is likely that Directgov, Business.gov and Gateway have delivered some cost savings to the public bodies which use them, through the reuse of common infrastructure. The public and businesses using the services have also benefited. Directgov (providing government information for the public) and Business.gov (a family of four services, one for each of the four nations of the UK, providing information for businesses) have enabled citizens and businesses to access information in a more organized way.
Even though financial benefits are not clear, performance has been managed and most targets have been met. Since 2006, 1,526 government websites have been closed. Determining how successful the Government has been in closing websites has proved difficult, however, because the baseline numbers were based on an estimate and targets have changed over time. At the start, the Government was unsure how many sites it had and not all bodies have complied with the policy to close sites.
"It is a good thing that people visited the two main government websites some 200 million times last year. However, it’s still unclear what benefits have been achieved and at what cost. We cannot conclude, therefore, that the taxpayer is securing value for money."
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office
Notes for Editors
The Government initially recognized that, to encourage online services to develop across the public sector, it would need to make critical ICT infrastructure and technical expertise available to be shared and reused. As a result, the Cabinet Office launched the Government Gateway in 2001. It enables users of public bodies’ online services to exchange personal information with Government securely or make payments safely through the internet.
By 2005, Government estimated that over 2,500 government web domains had been launched. Government decided that all websites would progressively be ‘rationalized’and also announced that all public-facing content from these websites would be ‘converged’ onto two services, Directgov for public users and Business.gov for advice and support to businesses.
Today’s NAO report focuses on the cost and performance of Gateway, Directgov and Business.gov, and the rationalization of websites.
Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at https://www.nao.org.uk/. Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
The Comptroller and Auditor General, Amyas Morse, is the head of the National Audit Office which employs some 880 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.