The Disclosure and Barring Service is to launch a new procurement process for its IT services after concluding that a crucial platform is “not suitable for further rollout”.
Earlier this year, parliament’s Public Accounts Committee said the Home Office had presided over a “masterclass in incompetence” in relation to a programme to digitise DBS record checks that should have been completed four years ago.
This week Home Office minister Victoria Atkins told parliament the non-departmental public body, which is sponsored by her department, was “undertaking a major change in its IT services” and had concluded that the update, known as release one (R1), was "not suitable for further roll-out”.
“The DBS will be procuring a new supplier to deliver these IT services and has agreed a short contract extension with the current provider to enable a smooth transition so that all operational services are protected,” she said.
In May, the Public Accounts Committee said the programme to improve the system for safeguarding checks on those looking to work with vulnerable people – such as children – was on course to cost £229m more than was originally anticipated and still had no identified finish date.
The committee said the programme had been delayed from the start and that the DBS had been forced to extend its contract with original supplier Captia for two years and that the contract with current supplier Tata Consultancy Services was at risk of running out before the project completed.
Asked in parliament why the DBS did not bring the project in house, Atkins told MPs this week that she did not agree it was the best solution.
“The DBS has taken full account of the findings and recommendations of the National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee reports earlier this year, and, using its review, has decided to procure new providers to ensure delivery of services,” she said.
“We want to do this in as short and as frictionless a way as possible, which is why a short extension has been granted.”
The Public and Commercial Services union said it had written to ministers three times since the R1 plaform was introduced in September last year to express concerns that the new system was “defective and having a serious detrimental effect on safeguarding”.
General secretary Mark Serwotka said the union had received no meaningful response to its letters and described the current situation as a “fiasco” that underscored the case for bringing the DBS’s IT services back in house.
“Despite the failures of the contractor and spiralling costs, the government is ideologically wedded to outsourcing,” he said.
“We shouldn’t be allowing contractors to get their snout in the trough at the expense of the public.”