Austin Mitchell, MP for Grimsby, stated in the House of Commons that there should be a blacklist for IT contractors working in the public sector who have been proven to be poor value for money. He declared that such contractors are using the public purse as a means of making easy money.
Mitchell, who is also a member of the Public Accounts committee, also laid blame with state officials who, he said, are easily swayed by IT sales and marketing departments. He continued: “All too often, departments seem incapable of dealing with the wily stratagems and sales patter of consultancy salesmen,”
Citing failure on behalf of the state and the contractors in question, Mitchell said: “Departments…try to set too many objectives to be accomplished, which always leads to failure in IT contracts. When we try to do more with an IT system than it can bear, it inevitably breaks down and performs inadequately.”
As an example of IT contracting which has failed to live up to its promise, Mitchell explained that the Ministry of Defence’s infrastructure programme is behind by a year and a half, while there is a four year backlog in the NHS care records system.
Mitchell commented: “No taxpayer pound should be the source of easy profit. That is an absolute maxim. However, in consultancy and IT services, the taxpayer pound has been a source of far-too-easy profits. We need to control that, exact penalties where necessary and blacklist firms that are over-selling in that fashion to see that they do not make the same profits and mistakes in future.”
Mitchell’s suggestions for a solution to this problem include giving more power to the Office of Government Commerce.
He concluded: “It should have an audit and control role over those contracts, and it should ensure that performance is adequate. If it is not, it should demand sanctions and penalties.”