Committee of Public Accounts: Press Notice

PAC PRESS NOTICE SEPTEMBER 2009

Committee of Public Accounts recommendations on public services accepted by Government

Recent reports by the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) have led the Government to make a number of significant improvements to public service delivery.

Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee, today said:

"I am pleased that, as a result of our work reviewing the Defence Information Infrastructure (DII), the Ministry of Defence is developing a process to capture additional costs incurred as a direct result of delays to the implementation of DII. It will use this information in future commercial negotiations with its contractor, ATLAS.

"In the light of the significant delays in rolling out the new care records systems to local Trusts under the National Programme for IT, the Department of Health agrees with the Committee that the deployment position needs to improve appreciably over the coming months. The Department has committed to update us on progress by the end of 2009.

"It is good news that the Government has accepted recommendations to help improve adult literacy and numeracy skills and has published a revised Skills for Life strategy that includes actions to raise demand for numeracy courses, increase the teaching workforce and improve the quality of numeracy provision."

The Government was responding to the following reports by the Committee of Public Accounts:

Ministry of Defence: Defence Information Infrastructure (1st report)

In response to the Committee's recommendations, the Ministry of Defence is developing a process to capture additional costs incurred by other Departmental programmes as a direct result of delays to the implementation of the Defence Information Infrastructure (DII), which it will use in future commercial negotiations. Lessons from the programme's underestimation of the work that was needed to make the defence estate suitable for DII have been captured. The Department acknowledges that it needs to follow through with its current plans for the DII programme to avoid major investment in legacy systems and that it needs to maintain momentum in implementing DII to retire the less capable legacy systems as soon as possible. The Ministry of Defence does not foresee any further significant delays to the roll-out of the new infrastructure or development of future software.

The National Programme for IT in the NHS: progress since 2006 (2nd report)

In response to the Committee's concerns about the National Programme for IT, the Department of Health is taking steps in a variety of areas. The Department will revise and publish new timetables for deploying the new care records systems across the NHS, and consider publishing an annual progress report, which might be combined with the annual benefits statement. The Department will determine how best to collate an accurate estimate of the local costs of the Programme and establish a reliable base for capturing the benefits. To help build support for the Programme, the Department agrees that clinicians and other NHS staff need to be made aware of when different aspects of clinical functionality will be delivered. The Department has also accepted that it should survey NHS staff at least every year to assess the impact of its efforts to secure their support for the Programme.

Skills for Life: progress in improving adult literacy and numeracy (3rd report)

The Department for Innovation, University and Skills has accepted all the recommendations in the PAC's report Skills for Life: progress in improving adult literacy and numeracy. In particular, it accepts that there are still too many people who lack functional literacy and numeracy skills and that more progress is needed on numeracy. The Department has published a revised strategy, Skills for Life: changing lives, which sets out a programme of activities to address the numeracy challenge, including action to raise demand for courses, increase the teaching workforce and improve the quality of provision. A new Skills for Life survey will be undertaken in 2010 to provide an up-to-date assessment of literacy and numeracy skills across England. The integration of employment and skills services should provide the opportunity for all jobseekers to get an assessment of their literacy, language and numeracy needs, and to access the support they need. To encourage more offenders to improve their basic skills the Department is working with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and the National Offender Management Service to improve the screening and assessment processes that take place at the beginning of a custodial sentence. The LSC will introduce a new core curriculum for offender learning in August 2009, focused on employability and delivering literacy, language, numeracy preparation for work and vocational training.

Notes to editors

1. This information is contained in the following: Cm 7568 Treasury minutes on the first to third reports from the Committee of Public Accounts 2008-2009: 1st report - Defence information infrastructure; 2nd report - The National Programme for IT in the NHS: progress since 2006; 3rd report - Skills for life: progress in improving adult literacy and numeracy

2. All media enquiries to: Alex Paterson, Select Committee Media Officer