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Disclosure Scotland's PASS system falls short

24/12/19

Mark Say Managing Editor

Disclosure Scotland suffered significant failings in the development of its Protecting and Safeguarding Scotland (PASS) digital system, according to the country’s central auditor.

Audit Scotland has published a report on the implementation highlighting that it took 18 months longer than originally planned and cost £78.5 million against a business case figure of £44.1 million and the Scottish Government approved budget of £34 million.

The system only just met a deadline for roll out in September of this year, has yet to deliver full transformation and still requires manual work by temporary staff.

Disclosure Scotland, which carries out criminal records checks for employers and manages the protection of vulnerable groups, has developed the cloud based PASS system to replace the process provided in a partnership with BT since 2002.

According to the report, the project was affected by over-optimistic assumptions, and a lack of proper financial reporting and governance.

Shortcomings

Among the shortcomings was an ambiguity around the roles of different groups in the project, a limited experience of agile methodology among the governance groups, a level of optimism bias that was too low for such a programme, and the fact that contingency planning did not start until very late.

One of the consequences has been that the current functionality of PASS is short of the original ambition, at the level of a minimum viable service, and the pace of further development depends on future funding from the Scottish Government.

Disclosure Scotland’s budget for 2019-29 identified a funding shortfall of £16.1 million. It hopes this will be resolved as part of the Scottish Government’s spring budget revision.

Caroline Gardner

Auditor General for Scotland Caroline Gardner (pictured) said: "I have reported on the failures of many ICT projects in recent years and set out clear principles public bodies should follow. There are lessons to be learned from Disclosure Scotland's experience with the PASS system.

“While the roll out in September was a significant milestone, there have been real weaknesses in control and oversight of the project.

"The system was delivered late, over budget, and with less functionality than had been originally intended. There remains more work to be done before its full ambition, and wider transformation, is realised."

Image from Audit Scotland

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