Poor planning by Northern Ireland’s Department of Finance and Personnel delayed three major projects within the civil service reform programme, leading to extra costs, an interim report from the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee has concluded. It doubts whether DFP will be able to fully implement the £3bn Reform Agenda.
Paul Maskey MLA, chair of the PAC, said: “There is an enormous challenge ahead for the Department of Finance and Personnel to complete the implementation phases of the various Reform Agenda projects and to move to successful operation. In the committee’s view, the department’s capacity to do this is still unproven.”
The committee said problems with specification and procurement that led to delays and extra costs could have been avoided through better planning of three projects – Account NI (centralising transaction processing through a shared service centre), HR Connect (providing personnel services from a shared service centre) and Network NI (a network service for voice, video and data communication connecting all government offices).
Workplace 2010 – intended to sell and leaseback civil service accommodation – is also in crisis. The programme was suspended when the two shortlisted tenderers, Trillium and Telereal, entered merger negotiations. The companies have now merged and it has been reported that Workplace 2010 has been abandoned. But a spokesman for DFP said: “We are reviewing the programme during the suspension – which was agreed by both bidders – and will decide on a way ahead in the next few weeks.”
A legal challenge from one unsuccessful Workplace 2010 bidder led to a settlement costing the department over £1.2m. DFP was also criticised by the PAC for failing to provide effective project leadership and management, citing the appointment of a single individual as the senior responsible officer for four high profile projects, including Workplace 2010.