Clive Betts, chair of the CLG Committee, responds to the publication of an NAO report examining the Failure of the FiReControl Project

01 July 2011

No surprises about the failure of FiReControl

“The verdict provided today by the National Audit Office confirms all the major criticisms raised in two previous reports when the Communities and Local Government Committee probed this project in 2006 and 2010,” said Clive Betts, chair of the CLG Committee, responding to the publication of an NAO report examining the Failure of the FiReControl Project

“Echoing our findings, the NAO concludes that the FiReControl project has been a catalogue of disasters from its inception to its ultimate demise, costing at the very minimum £469 million,with probable further costs still to come.

“A year ago we concluded that the FiReControl project had been inadequately planned, poorly executed, and badly managed. The NAO endorses our assertion that a fatal series of errors, delays, misjudgements and miscommunication characterised this project,” adds Betts.

Specific failures include:

  • No attempt to incentivise the major players in the Fire and Rescue Service to support the scheme;
  • No understanding by DCLG regards the complexities of the project, with poor planning, leadership and management, despite the fact that £89.8 million was spent on staffing;
  • The lack of interim milestones, combined with ineffective project management and planning, seriously undermined the Department’s ability to hold EADS to account or place it into breach of contract;
  • An adversarial relationship between EADS - the main contractor - and DCLG due to a poorly written contract, no viable project plan, and insufficient communication or contact;
  • No clear sense of direction and thus no coherent outcome: even though the first of eight hi-tech regional control centres was completed in 2007, all bar one (in London) still lie empty and currently cost the Government well over £1 million a month in rental payments.

“At the time of the CLG Committee’s 2010 inquiry, the cancellation of the project would have cost more than the estimated benefits if it had been left to proceed. Reluctantly, we had no option but to recommend its continuation. The lack of interim milestones in the contract meant it was too costly to cancel at that time. However, the situation subsequently deteriorated even further, and we support the Government’s decision to terminate its contract with EADS at the end of 2010.

“The Government must learn from this costly mistake and ensure that any future IT projects are well thought out, with robust contracts and appropriate project plans. Of utmost importance is the need to listen to, consult and collaborate with those intimately involved in the practicalities of any given project,” adds Clive Betts.

The NAO confirms in its report that DCLG has incurred costs of £3.2 million in winding down FiReControl.

Image: iStockphoto

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