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Government auditor to examine GDS



NAO plans review of ‘achievements and challenges’ of Government Digital Service

The National Audit Office (NAO) is planning to look at how the Government Digital Service (GDS), based in the Cabinet Office, works with other central government departments.

While not giving a firm date for the review, it has said that it will carry it out “shortly”, taking in “achievements and challenges”, with a focus on its performance in supporting the rest of government in the use of technology and business transformation.

The NAO referred to the plan in the small print of its new update report on Progress on the Common Agricultural Policy Delivery Programme.

It says this stems partly from earlier problems, which it highlighted in a report last December, in which GDS, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Rural Payments Agency had failed to work together effectively in delivering an IT system to support farmers’ payments.

This caused considerable delays in the launch of the new payments system, leading to a heavy reliance on paper applications until early this year; athough most farmers are now using the system.

GDS has largely stepped back from the programme, although it has been supporting Defra through the year in other areas of its digital work. The department also told the NAO that the relationship has been more positive in recent months.

Since GDS was set up 2010 there have been sporadic reports of tensions with Whitehall departments in which its team has been involved in projects. Its Government as a Platform programme has run into resistance in some areas, fuelling speculation during the summer that it was to be broken up.

However, the recent appointment of Kevin Cunnington as the new chief seems to have retrenched the organisation within Whitehall.

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