Quick updates on a couple of long-established money pits:
One: Police mergers- "The cost of planning and then aborting the Home Office's proposals for police force mergers could be more than £11.5 million, it has emerged. A survey carried out by The Daily Telegraph has found that an average of £268,668 was spent by each police authority on developing plans to amalgamate with neighbouring forces. It comes on top of the Home Office's own costs, which are reportedly more than £1 million, and which altogether could have been used to pay the wages of 545 constables for a year." (Telegraph 21.8.06)
Two: NHS Supercomputer- "One of the most important pieces of software in the NHS's IT overhaul - which is being developed by iSoft - may miss its already delayed release dates, according to a review by the two consultancies responsible for delivering the systems... The review found "no evidence for the development, nor testing of, technical procedures that would be required for operation and maintenance of the live system ... this is the main risk to the successful delivery of a fit-for-purpose solution... there is no well defined scope and therefore no believable plan for releases." (Guardian 21.8.06)
As we know, what both of these pits have in common is that they are top-down one-size-fits-all megaprojects designed to meet the needs of central government, but unwanted by frontline staff.
PS Software company iSoft must be rueing the day it ever got involved with the Supercomputer. As we've blogged before, the whole project is being run on the basis of fixed price contracts, which means the expense of unanticipated problems falls on the suppliers. That ought to be great for taxpayers. Except of course when the supplier can't take the strain. Goodness knows what's actually going on at iSoft, but we do know that its auditors have now found financial irregularities in both the 2004 and 2005 accounts, that one of its founding directors has had to be suspended, and other employees have had to leave. Worse, Connecting for Health has been forced to make at least one "upfront" payment, which iSoft gratefully booked into its 2005 accounts. Even though, as anyone who's ever made an upfront payment to a builder will know, the universal advice always and everywhere, is never ever ever pay in advance. I have a very bad feeling about this.