Government loses £24 million by scrapping IT project


The government has written off a 24.4 million IT project after contractor delays but refuses to name the trouble-causing supplier.

Cabinet Office Minister Tessa Jowell told parliament that the second phase of the SCOPE programme was cancelled in July 2008. SCOPE was designed to tie together 10 Government departments and security agencies so they could share "sensitive" information.

The first phase was delivered without a hitch in 2007, with the second phase supposed to allow more "collaborative working" between security and intelligence agencies and the government, Jowell said.

She said the second phase "was cancelled following the failure of the main commercial supplier to the programme to meet key contractual milestones."

The cancellation has lead to a 24.4 million write-off for the Cabinet Office.

Despite the cost of the supplier's failures, Jowell would not release the name of the company at fault. "The details of the discussions with the supplier are commercially confidential and are likely to remain so," she said.

That said, the government may take legal action. "My Department is now working with the contractor to resolve issues arising from the termination of the programme, including consideration of the legal avenues available," she said, explaining any legal action would be to recover costs.

Money down the drain'

The Liberal Democrats slammed the news, saying it didn't bode well for government IT. "This is yet another example of the Government's amazing ability to pour taxpayers' money down the drain," said shadow Cabinet Office minister Jenny Willott in a statement.

"The Cabinet Office is supposed to be responsible for co-ordinating IT across Government. But if even they abandon major projects, this does not bode well for other departments," she added. "At a time when families are counting every penny, the news that millions of pounds of taxpayers' money has been blown on yet another failed Government IT project will be hard to take."

She said the project failure was especially worrying because of the importance of sharing security data with the government. "It is essential that security and intelligence agencies and government departments have effective systems for close collaboration," she said.