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.
Many of the causes of the delays and cost overruns could have been avoided with better management. There was inadequate management oversight and the technical complexity of the project was significantly underestimated. Budget monitoring was absent and change control weak. In addition, the main supplier contracts were designed in such a way that sufficient pressure could not be brought to bear on suppliers to deliver to time and cost.
In January 2008, the National Offender Management Service began work on a rescoped programme with an estimated lifetime cost of £513 million and a delivery date of March 2011. They opted for the lowest cost approach, which would deliver the Service’s revised needs, although this option did not have the best benefit to cost ratio.
The full financial impact of the delays is uncertain, but it is likely to be at least £41 million; £15 million of which has been spent on aspects of the project which have now been cut from the design. £226 million has been spent on the project so far and roll-out of the system to prisons is expected to commence in April 2009.