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Government has cut its IT costs, say auditors

By Vivienne Russell | 23 January 2013

Ministers’ efforts to reduce spending on information and communication technology are paying off, auditors said today.

A National Audit Office report found the government had succeeded in cutting ICT spending by £316m in 2011/12 and was on course to meet or exceed its target of shaving £440m off costs in the current financial year.

However, auditors were unable to substantiate government claims to have already saved £410m this year and to be on course to save an additional £200m by March.

The NAO put much of the government’s success down to its decision to recruit commercial experts to renegotiate contracts with suppliers. It added that the impact of the government’s concerted effort to involve more small and medium-sized businesses in the ICT market remained unknown.

The watchdog also observed that the Cabinet Office had measured cost-savings only and not published data on the wider impact of its ICT initiatives, such as how well new or revised systems were performing.

ICT suppliers consulted by the NAO said they were frustrated by the slow pace of change and the government’s overwhelming focus on cost-cutting rather than exploring opportunities to redesign services and put more transactions online.

NAO head Amyas Morse said: ‘The Cabinet Office has made a good start on reducing spending on ICT by departments. However, it needs to develop a more comprehensive assessment of the impact and effectiveness of its ICT and procurement reform initiatives.

‘The big challenge will be to move from savings initiatives to achieving digital transformation of the civil service and the public services it provides.’

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