Legacy systems, poor supplier oversight and overspending at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) are costing the taxpayer dear and leading to the failure of case management and electronic monitoring of offenders systems, the Public Accounts Committee has said.
In a report on its inquiry into the Electronic Monitoring Programme at the MoJ, the committee says there was a multitude of avoidable mistakes, leading to the waste of £98 million in the deployment of the tagging service.
A further £9.8 million was lost when legacy systems "needed urgent remedial action".
The committee said in a statement: "Despite the lack of knowledge and evaluation, the government is pressing ahead with a £1.2 billion programme to expand tagging to another 10,000 people in the next three years," but that the programme has been high risk due to an over-complicated delivery model, with poor oversight of suppliers, an overambitious timetable and light touch scrutiny.
This led to neither the MoJ or HM Prison and Probation Service knowing "what works and for who, and whether tagging reduces re-offending". This has contributed to the failure of a new case management system for electronic monitoring of offenders, which "has cost taxpayers dear".
The report says: "Given the long history of poor performance in this area, the committee is unconvinced that the MoJ is equipped to handle emerging problems and will continue to monitor the serious risks that remain for the expansion of tagging and the need to procure new contracts by early 2024."
Committee chair Came Meg Hillier MP said: "The prison and probation service is reliant on outdated technology that is swallowing taxpayers' money just to stand still. The existing system is at constant risk of failure – and let us be clear that in the case of tagging, failure can mean direct and preventable risk to the public – and attempts to transform it have failed."
MoJ must provide a serious explanation and plan of action, the Committee said, adding: "We need assurances up front over the further £1.2 billion they have already committed to the tagging programme – what will be achieved, by when, and, crucially, what will be recovered for the public if goals aren't met."