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“A Masterclass in Incompetence”: DBS IT Modernisation Slammed

Cost now at £885 million; service still paper-based

By CBR Staff Writer

Tata Consultancy Services Blasted by Committee

“The handling of this project has been a masterclass in incompetence,’’ said Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) , revealing in a report that the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)’s IT modernisation is four years overdue and £229 million over its original budget, with no agreed date for completion.’

The DBS is the public body that issues certifications of approval to those who work with children and vulnerable adults. It was set up in 2012 with the merging of the Criminal Records Bureau and the Independent Safeguarding Authority.

The service still heavily uses paper-based systems. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) was contracted by the Home Office to design, build and run a new IT system that would modernise its services in 2012. The programme was delayed from the start and DBS had to extend its contract with its previous supplier, Capita, by two years.

“Much of the Service [still] Paper-Based”

However, the PAC’S report notes that they have failed to deliver on key objectives “leaving much of the service paper-based; the update service is more expensive for both government and users, and is used by fewer people.’’

The committee’s report, published on Friday, adds: “DBS is running the update service at a loss despite charging people £13 instead of the £10 expected in 2012”.

It is thought that it loses £9 for every application made on the updated service. It is offsetting these losses through a surplus of £114 million that has been made from charging customers to receive conventional paper disclosure certifications.

The report is highly critical of the Home Office stating: “This is another example where the Home Office has failed to deliver a major project.’’ The Home office and TCS have both admitted that when the original contract was signed in 2012 to modernise DBS it was done so without “anyone having a clear understanding of what it would take to make the programme successful.’’

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In her released comments PAC Chair Meg Hillier disclosed her concerns about the ability of the Home Office to undertake these large projects.

Its other projects need to be scrutinised as PAC has “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.’’

A TCS spokesman told Computer Business Review: “TCS and DBS are discussing the recommendations made by the PAC and will incorporate these, as appropriate and feasible, in the remainder of the modernisation plan.”

Rainmaker Solutions’ Christina Hammond-Aziz told Computer Business Review: “We see this too often. DBS is a further example where outsourcing IT services to large systems integrators has simply not worked. Both the current and previous supplier bid for the project without really understanding the complexities of large government programmes like this, and what it would take to make them succeed. They never challenged the client. Never pushed to truly understand user needs.”

She added: “The client failed to ensure that the suppliers properly understood the risks, the change requirements and the outcomes. Instead, they specified a list of requirements – 450 for business processes and 1,350 for the IT systems. But ultimately, this is about people and outcomes, not requirements.”

“Programmes of this scale can definitely be successful, but it needs sophisticated strategic gameplay not a list of requirements that will be out of date by the time its delivered. The purpose needs to be crystal clear, the team constantly iterating, the ultimate outcomes understood.”

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