Government accused of shredding IT project reports

Government officials at a Treasury body were told to destroy reports about expensive, critical IT projects, according to documents leaked to the media.

According to Press Association reports, officials at the Treasury-run Office of Government Commerce (OGC) were told in a document to carefully dispose of gateway review reports, which are internal assessments of key projects such as the NHS IT programme and ID cards.

"You must securely dispose of the (final gateway) report and all supporting documents immediately after delivery of the final report," the OGC document reportedly said.

The reports heap more criticism on Chancellor Gordon Brown and his Treasury, coming amidst a high court appeal by the OGC to prevent the release of gateway review reports about the 5 billion ID card scheme.

In a statement, the OGC said the shredding scandal was a "non-story".

"This is a non-story - the reference to 'shredding' in OGC's Gateway Guidance refers solely to 'version control' to ensure that there is no confusion created between notes made by Gateway Team members during work-in-progress and the final Gateway Review report," an OGC spokesperson said in a statement. The spokesperson said the final report is presented to the head of the project while a copy is retained centrally at the OGC.

"All project documentation is owned by the department responsible for the relevant project and is retained by that department," the spokesperson added.

But opposition politicians said the document shredding is indeed serious.

Conservative shadow cabinet office minister Oliver Heald said in a statement that Brown's recent promises to "involve and engage people" can't be believed.

"It is hardly surprising that the Treasury wants to hide from the public the details of their badly mishandled computer projects and it seems that Gordon Brown's tendency towards obsessive secrecy and shutting out the public will continue with him as Prime Minister non-elect just as it did when he was Chancellor," he said.

The Liberal Democrats' shadow chancellor, Vince Cable, has reportedly tabled a question in the House of Commons asking for the Treasury to explain the document destruction order.