NAO raps failure of probation systems

An NAO report says that the cost of systems developed by Bull Information Systems was expected to increase to £118m by the end of 2001 – 70% higher than the Home Office’s original forecast.

Crams, along with the National Probation Service Information Systems Strategy (NPSISS), was designed to create a standard infrastructure for the probation service.

The project began in 1995 and was due to end by March 1999. But by 2001, while 49 out of 54 local probation services were using NPSISS, only 16 were making substantial use of Crams.

In seven years, the programme team had seven directors and only two had experience of IT management. Technical experts worked on short-term assignments.

The NAO says that the Home Office failed to ensure Crams kept pace with changing business needs, that it had a poor user interface, and that its role was not spelled out from the start.

At present, 27 probation services are using alternative systems, so migrating them all to any new system will be a ‘major challenge’, the NAO has warned.

Work on Crams has now been suspended except for maintenance.

Since early 2000, the Home Office has held back on development work because of fears that purchase orders generated under its enabling agreement with Bull could be ‘unlawful’ under European public procurement directives.

Developments such as links to police systems and internet access have also stalled.

Also published in Computing

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