Police IT Co gets a parliamentary caution
Plans for police chiefs to co-ordinate IT procurement lack clarity and may fail, a committee of MPs warns today.
The Home Office is urged to clear up confusion about "funding and governance" arrangements for the company being set up by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). It is warned that the hoped-for benefits may never be achieved - "particularly if suppliers have too much influence".
The warning comes from the all-party Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC), in a hard-hitting report about mistakes in a £71m scheme to buy BlackBerrys for police officers.
The Mobile Information Programme was intended to save £125m, but forces declared savings of just £600,000 - "less than one per cent of the amount invested", the PAC said
At least 19 forces - including West Midlands and Merseyside - received the smartphones for fewer than half their officers, while three forces bought far too many. While some officers were spending an extra 18 minutes of each a shift on the beat - the aim of the scheme - other forces reported that more time was spent back at the station.
In its report, the PAC also considers the plans for 'NewCo', a public company that will take over responsibility for procurement from the National Policing Improvement Agency.
Home Secretary Theresa May announced it would be set up later this year - by the Home Office, ACPO and a private firm - after attacking the current system as "broken".
May condemned the chaos of 2,000 different police computer systems across 100 data centres and vowed to cut the £1.2bn annual bill for IT.
But today's report, while welcoming 'NewCo', warns it is "unclear" whether it will deliver value for money. The same applies to arrangements for funding and governance. "Forces told us that the department needs to provide a clear set of business rules which enable forces to make value for money procurement decisions"
The committee adds: "There are risks that it may not deliver the intended benefits, particularly if suppliers have too much influence. The department and the police need to clarify the purpose of the new company and, in particular, how it will support the implementation of the Information Systems
"There must also be clear guidance on what police forces must buy centrally, with the benefits of this approach backed up with robust data."
The Home Office - which told the PAC that NewCo would start slowly, with a small number of forces, and build up over time - issued a strong defence of its plans. A spokesman said: "We are doing things differently, with a new police ICT company to deliver value for money and elected police and crime commissioners to make sure forces get the technology that works for them. Our reforms will ensure efficiency and innovation so that the police can spend more time on the beat tackling crime."