CRB IT system not good enough, says Benn

8 May 03
The IT system for the Criminal Records Bureau failed to meet the government's original specification, a Home Office minister has admitted. Junior minister Hilary Benn conceded that the CRB's system, provided by Capita under a public-private partnersh.

09 May 2003

The IT system for the Criminal Records Bureau failed to meet the government's original specification, a Home Office minister has admitted.

Junior minister Hilary Benn conceded that the CRB's system, provided by Capita under a public-private partnership, was 'not good enough' and didn't conform to the original plans. 'That was not apparent from the tests prior to the launch, and we learned then what the consequences were,' he told a Liberal Democrat-sponsored debate on the issue.

Benn said the system's output was 'below expectations' and accepted the 'problems' the government experienced in 'trying to make large-scale projects work.'

The CRB, launched last year, had a backlog of more than 270,000 applications for checks by November 2002.

An investigation by the LibDems claims that Capita's IT system had a 'catalogue of errors' before the agency was launched and has undergone numerous revisions.

'Software and applications were poorly documented, poorly coded and not adaptable enough to meet future business needs,' said Paul Burstow, LibDem spokesman for older people. 'There is even a question mark over whether the system originally delivered by Capita was capable of coping with the demands of basic disclosure.'

The CRB completed 1.4 million criminal checks last year, 57% fewer than planned. Over 700,000 checks on people working with vulnerable adults and the basic disclosure service have been postponed.

The LibDems estimate that without the basic disclosure service, which was to be the CRB's main revenue generator, it will lose £100m over three years. Burstow claims that not only will this jeopardise the CRB's plans to be self-financing by 2007 and to pay off its Treasury start-up loan but will pressure the agency to increase the costs of its other services. 'It seems more likely that the cost of putting the CRB right will fall on those organisations and individuals who are obliged by law to apply for disclosures, and that is unfair.' Burstow is calling for assurances that any cost increases will be index-linked.

But Benn said he could not confirm any figures. 'We are currently considering what the fees will be and our decision will be based on the volume of work, the timetable, the need and so on.'

PFmay2003

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