Scottish Borders Council’s ICT outsourcing deal has hit problems since it was agreed in 2016, according to a report from Audit Scotland.
In a broader review of the council’s performance, the national auditor describes the outsourcing to CGI as “a challenging journey” and says that so far the results have been mixed.
The £92 million deal raised eyebrows at the time due to its 13-year length – going against the trend to focus on shorter term, more agile arrangements in government – and was based on a contract previously negotiated between CGI and City of Edinburgh Council.
It placed the company in charge of implementing a range of major ICT changes, including a replacement of hardware, an integration of finance and HR systems and the development of a digital customer access (DCA) system.
The report says the council has “experienced problems with the full delivery of benefits”, with a delay in the implementation of the DCA and issues with the introduction of a Business World ERP system. Problems with third party service providers led to their removal and other contractors were required to rectify problems, although at no extra cost to the council.
In addition, council staff told the audit team that the new computer systems are often sluggish and that helpdesk support from CGI can be unresponsive.
“Overall, the forecast benefits from the ICT contract have not materialised as soon as the council expected,” the report says.
By contrast, it also points to improvements giving the council access to technical expertise, helping it to address risks in staff turnover, and improving its cyber security. It adds that a CGI ICT service delivery centre in the Borders should boost the local economy.
Assessing the council more widely, Audit Scotland says it has made steady progress in transforming its service delivery and that working with other organisations will be key to it achieving its ambition for future changes.
It places a particular emphasis on the Fit for 2024 programme, which is aimed at saving £30 million within the next five years and includes a significant digital element, encompassing the DCA project, the roll out of Office 365 across the council and automating more processes.
Overall it is aimed at streamlining back office activity and increasing productivity in frontline services.
Chair of the Accounts Commission Graham Sharp said: “The continued progress Scottish Borders Council has made to transform services is encouraging. Now it must focus on several critical areas including tackling underperforming services, ensuring councillors have the right training to enable them to fulfil their responsibilities and getting to grips with both staff and community engagement.”
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