Audit reveals issues with council ICT department

A council’s ICT department has struggled to prioritise its workload in the face of increasing demand, according to a financial watchdog.

The Wales Audit Office made its comments into a report released yesterday into the operations of Flintshire County Council.

It found that the council had lost sight of its existing ICT strategy, focusing instead on narrowly-focused action plans.

It said: “The council has not managed well enough the connections between its asset management, ICT and people strategies and their implications for its financial planning. This indicates that the strategies have not fully supported the governance framework, as intended.”

In future, it said, a revised strategy for ICT should feed their financial implications into the council’s medium-term financial plan, and that the links with other strategies are considered.

The report also said that the quality of reports presented to council committees were too detailed or included unnecessary jargon, meaning that they can be difficult to understand for non-specialist members.

“For example, the ICT quarterly reports presented to cabinet and committees include helpful performance indicators relating to customer satisfaction,” it said. However, references to progress on larger projects relating to systems are vaguer and rely on members referring to previous reports to get an understanding of how projects have moved on or how much work remains.”

Despite the criticisms, the WAO said the council had made progress in some areas, including an improved website, and the introduction of a smartphone app.

In addition, Flintshire has also exploited technology effectively to improve access to services for those customers preferring face-to-face contact through the introduction of three “one stop shops” around the county.

A successful rationalisation of printers across council offices and the introduction of iPads for councillors have both saved money.

However, the service has struggled to meet the demand for change, leaving staff feeling frustrated with some aspects of the service.

“The upgrading and modernisation of some ICT systems have taken longer than expected, for example, and staff involved in the ‘agile working’ pilot have found difficulties in accessing the council’s ICT systems from their homes,” the report said.

The council has acknowledged that, in the past, it has been reluctant to define the intended benefits from large-scale technological projects.

However, a new operating model presents an opportunity to change this and ensure the ICT service reflects corporate priorities more explicitly, the report concluded.

Colin Marrs

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