COMMONS

Flawed tagging programme a catastrophic waste of public money

24 January 2018

The Public Accounts Committee report says Ministry of Justice pushed on with overly complicated project without clear evidence it was needed.

Simple idea made overly ambitious, overly complicated and poorly delivered

Offender-monitoring tags can be a cost-effective alternative to custodial sentences, but the Ministry of Justice's delivery of the new generation electronic monitoring programme so far has been fundamentally flawed.

The simple idea of replacing the contracts for electronic tags was made overly ambitious, overly complicated and has been poorly delivered. The programme has so far been a catastrophic waste of public money which has failed to deliver the intended benefits.

The Ministry pressed ahead with the programme without clear evidence that it was to be operated or that it was deliverable. Its selection of a high-risk approach to procure the new electronic tags, and its poor management of both the programme and potential suppliers, exacerbated these problems.

Huge amount of time and taxpayers' money wasted

The Ministry of Justice has ultimately wasted a huge amount of time and taxpayers' money to end up with an approach which uses the same types of tags and supplier it had when the programme started.

Many of the lessons the Ministry claims to have learned are simply common sense and should not have resulted in such a shambolic delivery of an important programme.

We welcome the Ministry of Justice and HM Prison and Probation Service's realism and candour, but this situation should not have been allowed to happen in the first place. We do not expect to see similar failings in any of the other 16 major projects currently being undertaken by the Ministry of Justice.

Deputy Chair's comment

Comment from Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Deputy Chair of the Committee:

"The Ministry of Justice took an all-singing, all-dancing approach to what could have been a relatively simple procurement exercise.

The evidence to support a wholesale transformation of the tagging system was weak at best but the Ministry pushed ahead anyway.

This ill-fated adventure in the possibilities of technology has so far costed taxpayers some £60 million.

The new tags are expected to be rolled out more than five years later than planned and, even then, the system will rely on the same form of technology that was available when the programme launched.

The Ministry accepts it got this badly wrong but admitting its failures does not excuse an approach that disregarded fundamental principles we would expect to see applied in the spending of public money.

It must act on lessons learned from this programme. We urge it to demonstrate a commitment to doing so by publishing details of the steps it is taking to avoid such wasteful mistakes in future."

Further information

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