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NAO criticises prisons’ maintenance ICT

07/02/20

Mark Say Managing Editor

The National Audit Office (NAO) has said that the ICT system for facilities management in prisons is contributing to their poor performance.

Prison block

It has pointed to the issue in a report, Improving the Prison Estate, that is highly critical of the Government’s performance in providing and maintaining, safe, secure and decent prisons.

This is reflected by the fact that more than 40% of inspected prisons were rated as ‘poor’ or ‘not sufficiently good’ for safety over the past five years.

Amid a range of issues, the report identifies poor operational arrangements and ICT, in particular the main facilities management system, as contributing factors.

“Staff we spoke to described being unable to find the information they needed and used the system inconsistently because of a lack of standardisation in data entry and poor functionality,” it says.

“Paper based processes are still used and management information is unreliable. Local estates managers in prisons and maintenance staff told us that the system is outdated, slow and creates administrative burdens.”

Aiming for improvements

It says the Prison Service is working on improving the system but points out that over 40% of prisons need major repair or replacement in the next three years, and there is a currently a backlog of work to do.

Other problems have included delays in agreeing and receiving funding and the lack of long term strategy setting out exactly what conditions prisoners should be held in.

Commenting on the whole report, head of the NAO Gareth Davies said: “(The Prison Service) has failed to deliver the savings it hoped for by contracting out prison maintenance services. Prisons remain in a poor condition, poor safety has reached record levels, and there are huge maintenance backlogs.

“The Government has recently committed to creating 10,000 new prison places and needs to learn lessons from its recent experiences. Crucially, HMPPS must work with the Ministry of Justice and Treasury to develop a long term, deliverable strategy that will provide prisons that are fit for purpose.”

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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