Tuesday, January 19, 2010

IT Waste Tastes Of Snake-Oil

Billions of pounds have been squandered on New Labour's love affair with big expensive IT projects, as gullible ministers were taken in by slick IT salesmen. Now the wheels have fallen off a decade of disaster after taxpayers cash on doomed projects was thrown down the drain.

The white heat of information technology was too hot to handle as ministers stood by and watched IT projects crash and burn, throwing good money after bad to prop up a decade of incompetence.

Time and again the chickens came home to roost, as many of the big IT projects ending up as embarrassing financial fiascos.

Mesmerised ministers were happy to be strung along by slick IT salesman and consultants who promised the earth and delivered nothing. Maybe hoodwinked New Labour liked spending billions of pounds of our cash to make them feel important.

The Independent makes a splash today exposing the £26 billion IT waste with a catalogue of botched projects. Along with a plea to save the whale. Botched IT projects have left taxpayers with an almighty bill for computer systems that have suffered severe delays, run millions of pounds over budget or have been cancelled altogether, reports The independent.

IT consultants have been able to milk the system dry and make a fortune, as off-the-shelf systems were abandoned for bespoke solutions - taking twice as long and twice as expensive.

Nice work if you can get it. Creaming off a fortune and stuffing the place with 'warm bodies' whose job was to keep projects going for as long as possible. Yet banks, supermarkets and stores never seemed to be beset with the same problems as the public sector.

Whitehall is littered with the debris of doomed IT projects. The Orange Party has lost count of the number of times it has highlighted the shambles from way back in May 2008. Taking the lead from vociferous Craig's 'Plundering the public sector' and 'Squandered' with special reports from Private Eye.

The frustrated public accounts committee had actually run out of words to describe the mess.

The Independent has complied a shocking list of New Labour's IT spending spree. From the ill-fated farms subsidies scheme, costing the DEFRA about £350m and leaving farmers more than £1 billion out of pocket. Through to the MoD's defence information infrastructure project, currently running more than £180m over budget, 18 months late and set to cost £7.1 billion.

But the big daddy of all disasters is the NHS's Connecting for Health (CfH) computer, flagged up by the Orange Party and others as one the most shameful examples of how the government has squandered away public cash.

The biggest non-military IT computer project in the world, costing a staggering £12.7 billion, is years behind schedule. Yet ministers steadfastly squandered billions on the useless NHS white-elephant.

Both the Tories and Labour's Left have seized on the project as another example of government waste and have called for the whole project to be scrapped. Minister's attempts to "ram through a top-down, centralised, one-size-fits-all central NHS computer system" have come "crashing down around their ears".

Tax-payers' cash has gone down the drain and into the pockets of IT consultants, leaving doctors and hospital chiefs trying to get to grips with an unworkable IT system, filthy wards and a third rate service from debt ridden hospitals forced to pay off crippling PFI loans.

But the government was happy to write blank cheques for these enormous disasters, as time and again the commons spending watchdog warned of delays after delays, describing projects as "fundamentally flawed" and blaming ministers for "stupendous incompetence" in managing them.

The Independent has found that the total cost of New Labour's 10 most notorious IT failures is equivalent to more than half of the budget for the country's schools last year.

Ministers have been responsible for presiding over one expensive IT disaster after another and blamed for 'stupendous incompetence'. Taxpayers are left with huge bills for bungled projects. Another fine mess of New Labour's own making. What have ministers got to show for years of wasting taxpayers cash? As the Orange Party has said before and The Independent says today: Egg on their faces and a very expensive bottle of snake oil.

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