Multibillion IT savings 'arbitrary', MPs say

The government has been announcing multibillion pound IT savings without properly measuring how it can achieve them.

That is the verdict of the Treasury Select Committee, which insisted the government must improve its accounting of efficiency savings if it is to make meaningful change to IT costs.

In a powerful report, ‘Evaluating the Efficiency Programme’, the committee lambasted the government for last year adding £5 billion to its own £21.5 billion Gershon savings target, without clear plans. That target included steps such as overhauling IT, other operational improvements, and the relocation of staff.

The increase was “a figure chosen by ministers without prior consultation with the relevant departments”, the committee said in a damning indictment of government planning skills.

“As such, it does not inspire confidence,” the committee added.

It also highlighted concerns that the National Audit Office had not even checked the achievements at that point against the original £21.5 billion targets, before announcing new plans.

It was vital that the government took a more accurate approach, with savings properly quantified and audited, the committee stated. The government needed “robust” data collection procedures to accurately measure savings from the start.

The Whitehall procedure “time and time again”, of establishing these systems well after the efficiency programmes have already begun, was “illogical”, the committee stated.

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