Saturday, December 11, 2010

Spotted By BOM Correspondents


BOM correspondents have spotted the following, including news of some real old favourites:

1. NHS Supercomputer still haemorrhaging cash

Were you by any chance under the impression that our new broom government had scrapped Blair's wildly expensive and wildly useless NHS Supercomputer (see many previous blogs)? Er, no. All they've actually done is attempt to renegotiate the contracts with the IT suppliers.

AMB highlights an interesting post on the latest position by Tony Collins, the former Editor of Computer Weekly and a man who did much to expose the lunacy in the first place. He tells us that the Department of Health are signing a new agreement with one of the main suppliers (CSC) to deploy a system (Lorenzo) that the hospitals themselves don't want and may never use. Collins writes:
"The deal will commit CSC to deploying the Lorenzo system to NHS trusts that have no intention of deploying it; and the deal commits the DoH to paying CSC for a minimum number of Lorenzo deployments even if NHS trusts don't actually deploy the system.

For some in the NHS, the deal will mark a new low in the history of the NHS IT programme. It may also show why central government is congenitally ill-suited to signing big IT contracts."
So WTF is Lansley's Health Department doing this?

Well, on the positive side, the new agreement will apparently save around £0.5bn compared to the previous contracts. But it will still leave this bit - that may well not ever be used - costing us £2.7bn. That aside, Collins suggests three other highly plausible explanations for the Department going ahead:
  1. Pulling the plug might have led to CSC suing the Department, just as another main contractor (Fujitsu) is already doing
  2. It "defers any day of reckoning within Whitehall over what many in the NHS regard as a failed programme"
  3. It "relieves the health minister Simon Burns from taking any tough decisions about the future of the NPfIT, at least for the time being".
And the cost to us taxpayers? As always, it's virtually impossible to know. All we can say is that the Supercomputer has already cost us something like £6bn, for which we have got sweet FA in terms of value.

(PS This of course is not the first Labour contract our new government has tried and failed to get out of. The contract for those two new aircraft carriers had been so heavily tilted against taxpayers that it was actually cheaper to carry on rather than pull the plug. Even though we can't now afford the aircraft to go on them, and we will have the first navy ever to sail two carriers with nothing to carry. Nelson must be spinning - see this blog)


2. Student Loans Company still malfunctioning

Peter T highlights the fact that the Student Loans Company (SLC) is still not managing to pay loans on time when they are needed. In other words, despite all their promises to do better in 2010 after the shambles of 2009, the SLC still failed to pay 26% of students by the first day of term this year.

Which meant of course that many students were forced to look for emergency employment so they could eat. Bar-keeping and lap-dancing may well be good experience for later life, but that's not what we pay the SLC £94m pa in administration cost to deliver.


3. British Council still cocking-up

David Blackie reports on the latest cock-up by our old friends at the British Council.

The BC has a marketing arm for British education institutions seeking to sell courses to overseas students - Education UK. It was established a few years ago to provide a Big Government Solution in place of the private marketing operations that had existed previously. And yep, you guessed it - it's a disaster.

In fact, it's so shambolic, and its website is so dysfunctional, that the BC has now been forced to refund subscriptions to participating institutions. David writes:
"...the organisation has used taxpayers’ money and the machinery of government to send students to a site which is so bad that everyone gets their money back. Well, actually not everybody, because there will be no refund to the taxpayer for the extraordinary waste of public money, no refund to the schools and colleges who have lost business as students, parents and agents gave up trying to use a dysfunctional site, and – interest declared – no refund to the businesses compromised by the organisation using taxpayers’ money to divert monies into its own pockets."
As we've blogged many times, the hopeless BC should be abolished. And we're seriously disappointed that Cam has not only allowed it to survive, but reportedly clasped it to his bosom on those recent trips out East.

Gah.

4. International sports bunfights still losing money

Bobby Charlton (hmm... sounds familiar somehow) emailed to point out that South Africa didn't make nearly as much out of the 2010 World Cup as had been billed:
"South Africa made a return of just £323m on the £3bn it spent on building stadiums and infrastructure for this summer's tournament, according to official figures

Mike Schussler, director of consultants Economists.co.za, said: "The country made a bit of money but less than expected. We got a small part of the ticket sales and the foreign visitors' spending, but it's not as much as we expected."
Well, who'd have possibly guessed that?

Thank God we got shafted by that nice Mr Blatter.

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