Home Office perm sec Rutnam to face questions over Emergency Services Network delays
PAC chair Meg Hillier says department has “very serious questions” to answer over delayed rollout of emergency communications system
Sir Philip Rutnam is to be grilled over delays to the rollout of a new communications system for emergency services after the Home Office was accused of sneaking out the announcement.
Speaking on the Today Programme this morning, the Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier said that MPs would question the Home Office perm sec later this month after the committee had been “repeatedly assured” the rollout of the Emergency Services Network system would be completed before the end of 2019.
The ESN system is intended to upgrade communications for emergency services across the UK. The project has been in development since 2011 and has cost around £5bn but it has faced delays and the Home Office announced last month that rollout would now be phased, in a further slippage.
- Home Office announces phased roll-out for Emergency Services Network
- Number of major government projects given red delivery warning doubles
- Home Office could delay Emergency Services Network rollout
Under the “new strategic direction” for the project, the rollout of mobile data services will now begin in 2019, followed by voice services, although a full business case for the shift is not expected until early next year.
This delay is estimated to cost as much as £1bn as the existing Airwave communications system continues to be paid for as the new system is introduced.
Hillier said that the problems the project faced included the use of untried technology, as well too few bidders for the contract and delays to testing across the country.
“Every step of the way we have been warning [the Home Office] that their projections were over-ambitious and they kept saying to us that it was going to be fine,” she said. “They have slipped out this announcement ten days ago, which gives us very little comfort.”
Asked if the failures amounted to a resigning matter for Home Office officials who had provided the committee with assurances on the projects progress, Hiller – who last week claimed there was a ‘culture of denial’ surrounding failing government projects – said: “I think there are very serious questions. What has happened since then is there is a new permanent secretary at the Home Office [after Rutnam replaced Sir Mark Sedwill as permanent secretary in April 2017], and he said that he needed to do a review – this announcement is what they would call their review. We at least have got them to look at it closely.
“The problem always in the civil service is that people move on, but we call people back [to appear before the committee]. We are actually having the permanent secretary appearing before us in just over a week’s time [the date has not yet been published], so we will be asking questions then.
"We are determined to get to the bottom of this – it has got to work, it is absolutely crucial for our emergency services, but it is not delivering what it has set out to do, and the cost is getting absolutely ridiculous.”
Tax agency looks to invest in cryptoanalysis tool
In our January issue, CSW asks experts to give their thoughts on the new government’s policy...
New award will recognise bodies that have adopted Office for Statistics Regulation’s...
Sir Patrick Vallance also said he wanted half of all fast streamers to have science...
How can local authorities and government departments ensure that civil servants are able to...
BT takes a look at the shifting nature of cyber threats, and how organisations can detect and...
Cornerstone provide advice on effective approaches for learning management.
Everyone loves a good spreadsheet. But if you have more than a few hundred employees,...