Former Home Office chief defends troubled DBS digitisation programme
Sir Mark Sedwill says project was launched on the grounds of reasonable evidence
Credit: Parliament TV
The former head of the Home Office Sir Mark Sedwill has said he stands by his decision to approve a plan to reset the troubled Disclosure and Barring Service programme despite spiralling costs and part of the programme being scrapped.
As Home Office permanent secretary between 2013 and 2017, Sedwill – who now serves as head of the civil service – oversaw a 2014 reset of the programme to digitise record checks conducted by the DBS, which had fallen behind schedule.
However, the project has run into more problems since the reset, including a High Court challenge and delays in the handover between the system’s two commercial providers.
Last year the Home Office scrapped work on an integral IT platform, Release 1, after the commercial supplier TCS said it would be unable to deliver the update. In December, the department relaunched its procurement process for IT services after concluding the platform was “not suitable for further rollout”.
- DBS stops sending electronic copies of sensitive documents after ‘issues’ with redaction software
- ‘I don’t accept that ESN failed’ – civil service head
- HMRC and Home Office among PAC chair's ‘departments of concern’ over IT project difficulties
The announcement came seven months after the Public Accounts Committee accused the Home Office of providing a “masterclass in incompetence” as the programme faced a four-year delay and a £229m overspend.
But in a letter to the committee, published yesterday, Sedwill said he was satisfied that the decision to approve the 2014 reset “was reasonable based on the information available at the time”.
The business case had been shared with the Government Digital Service and approved by both the Home Office’s portfolio and investment committee and the Treasury, he added.
Sedwill also defended the DBS’s record to date, despite acknowledging what he described as the “disappointment” of TCS’s failure to deliver the new IT platform.
PAC has previously raised concerns about the delays to delivering new IT infrastructure, which was supposed to be in place by March. In a progress review published at the beginning of this month, the committee said DBS had been unable to explain how it would mitigate the risks associated with its decision to “stay with an ageing platform with the risks of obsolescence and a provider not being able to support the system much longer”.
In his letter, Sedwill said he wanted to highlight that DBS is now processing disclosure checks “faster and cheaper than ever before”.
He added: “DBS now processes over 80% of basic disclosure checks in 24… by the end of March this year, DBS had issued more than 29 million certificates, barred 21,000 people and has 1.5 million people subscribed to the update service [to keep DBS checks up to date].”
The cab sec said the Home Office was in the process of producing a programme closure report that will include a section looking at lessons learned.
He said the department would respond to the committee’s call, made in a report last year, to conduct a full lessons-learned exercise for the DBS and Emergency Services Network programmes.
The letter, dated 10 April, was a follow-up to Sedwill’s appearance before the committee earlier in the month, in which he denied that the DBS programme “failed”. At the time, he told the MPs he did not agree with their assessment that he and others in the Home Office should have foreseen problems including a much lower rate of employer take-up than expected.
Sedwill had promised to write to the committee after he was unable to give a definitive response when asked whether the “the judgment [he] exercised or the governance which gave [him] the information to exercise that judgment” was flawed during the 2014 reset.
Former insurance and electronics bigwig becomes innovation agency's first permanent head in three years
Work to ensure tasks are not replicated across different tools could deliver significant financial benefits
Julia Lopez invites civil servants to put forward proposals for potential £50k support
A recent study finds that the pandemic has boosted budgets – but legacy tech remains a big barrier to progress
SolarWinds explains how public sector organisations can make the most of their hybrid IT investments - delivering services that are both innovative and reliable
Higher Education institutions are some of the most consistently targeted organisations for cyberattacks. CrowdStrike explores the importance of the right cybersecurity measures.
There are many reasons to keep your Oracle workloads running on local servers. But there are even more reasons to move them to the cloud as part of a wider digital transition strategy. Six Degrees...
Engage Process explains how to ensure that process remains at the heart of your management programs - and how to keep undue pressure from those processes