Upgrade of safeguarding service 'masterclass in incompetence'

By agency reporter
May 30, 2018

The Public Accounts Committee says the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) modernisation programme is another example of a Home Office project marred by poor planning and contracting, delays, spiralling costs, and a failure to understand what service users want.

The modernisation programme is over four years late and costs are expected to be £229 million more than initially planned, while the new update service has seen a fraction of the demand expected by the Home Office in 2012.

DBS re-evaluated the programme in 2014 but has not done enough to turn the programme around.

DBS is now negotiating with its contractor, Tata Consultancy Service (TCS), to deliver the programme, including agreeing a date for when modernisation will be complete. There is a strong risk that they may run out of time before the contract ends in March 2019.

In addition, the update service has not delivered the promise of a cheaper, better safeguarding service for customers.

Instead of providing savings, DBS is charging customers £13 a year for the update service instead of the £10 expected in 2012, and is holding onto cash generated from the rest of the services it provides, building up a surplus at the expense of its customers.

The Department needs to keep a close watch over negotiations and ensure that taxpayers, who have already seen too much money wasted on the programme, do not continue to see money going down the drain.

Committee Chair, Meg Hillier MP said, "Government has a crucial role to play in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults but the handling of this project has been a masterclass in incompetence.

None of the cost-saving and service benefits set out in the original business case have been achieved. At the same time, DBS has built up a projected surplus of £114 million.

Negotiations affecting the future of DBS are under way and Government must monitor these carefully.

It then needs to be straight with Parliament and the public about what, if any, benefits it expects to materialise by the time DBS’s contract with Tata Consultancy Service ends.

These are testing times for the Home Office. We continue to have serious concerns about its largest project, the Emergency Service Network, which is critical to the ability of our emergency services to do their jobs and keep citizens safe.

The Department also faces huge challenges arising from the UK’s departure from the EU – not least, potential threats to security at the border from day one of Brexit.

On both DBS and ESN, the Home Office appears either to have ignored or not fully understood the needs of the end user.

It does not fill us with confidence that all is rosy on the Department’s other major projects. Although we received verbal assurances that they are running smoothly, these are not enough.

We expect the Home Office to demonstrate that, when things go wrong, it has learned from and is acting on the lessons."

* Read the report Modernising the Disclosure and Barring Service here

* Public Accounts Committee https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/


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