By Tony Collins
Richard Bacon, a Conservative MP on the Public Accounts Committee, has written to the head of the National Audit Office to ask that he consider an inquiry into £265m of extra payments to Siemens on a passport IT contract.
It comes after the Home Office declined to explain why a contract with Siemens that was expected to cost £80m to £100m ended up costing £265m.
On Monday this week Home Office spokesman Andrew Bell politely declined to answer any of Campaign4Change’s questions on the Siemens contract.
As a result we forwarded to Bacon emails of our questions to the Home Office and its answers.
Now Bacon has written to Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, drawing his attention to our email exchange with the Home Office.
Says Bacon in his note to Morse:
“I wondered if the NAO might consider looking at the Siemens contract for the IT infrastructure for the passport service? The Home Office appears to see relatively little need to justify the fact that an £80-100 million contract with Siemens actually cost £365 million.”
Bacon also pointed out to Morse that CSC has replaced Siemens on the passport IT contract. CSC is a main supplier on the NHS National Programme for IT, NPfIT. In a report due to be published shortly by the Public Accounts Committee, CSC’s work on the NPfIT is likely to be heavily criticised.
Unless the NAO investigates the passport contracts Parliament will have no certain way of knowing whether the CSC passport IT contract, like the Siemens deal, is deviating from the original expected costs, scope or timetable.
Officials are keeping Gateway reviews secret – though these could give MPs an insight into progress of the CSC passport contract.
My questions to the Home Office, and its reply, are here.
It may be helpful to Mr Bacon to note the following, quoted from a letter to me from the NAO, http://dematerialisedid.com/BCSL/NAO20100927.html :
“With respect to Value for Money Studies, the Comptroller and Auditor General produces an average of two reports on the activities of the Home Office and its associated bodies each year. The last on the activities of the IPS was the 2007 report on the introduction of e-passports, to which you refer in your letter. As such we have not undertaken any recent work on the value for money of the passport operation.
“In choosing the areas to carry out a Value for Money audit we are ourselves required to have due regard to value for money. This means we have to focus our limited resources on the areas where we think the greatest risks to value for money lie. We take into account a number of factors including the likely impact on the accuracy of the body’s financial statements.”