MoJ spend on tackling legacy tech more than doubles to £60m in FY23

Since 2021 the department has increased threefold the size of its dedicated fund for upgrading hardware and software infrastructure, as well moving systems to the cloud, according to a minister

The Ministry of Justice’s annual spending on addressing legacy IT issues more than doubled in the 2023 fiscal year to a total of £60m.

The department “maintains a fund specifically for the reduction and eradication of technical debt”, across the central department and HM Courts and Tribunals Service, according to MoJ minister Mike Freer.

In the 2020/21 year, a total of £19.2m was spent via this, against an intended annual budget of £15.1m. This budget was doubled the following year, rising to £32.8m – although only £26.6m was ultimately spent.

In 2022/23, both planned and actual spending again increased more than twofold. During the year £60.3m was spent on reducing technical debt, representing about 90% of the allocated budget of £67.6m.

This means that the MoJ’s annual spending on legacy has grown more than threefold within the space of two years. Budgets for reducing tech debt have increased even quicker, with the figure for last year four and half times higher than the comparable for FY21.

Freer, who was answering a written parliamentary question from Labour MP Dame Nia Griffith, claimed that the legacy spending helps support including software and hardware upgrades and cloud adoption.

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He said: “This fund focusses on improving and replacing legacy infrastructure and software applications; migrating business-critical applications from legacy hosting arrangements to the cloud, which is much more modern and secure; and bringing its digital and technology estate up to required standards.”

HMCTS – which, with 16,000 employees, is more than double the size of the central ministerial department – was recently revealed to have in operation nine legacy systems considered to be a critical level of risk. The Ministry of Defence, with 11 red-rated systems, was the only agency to have more.

In September, the MoJ entered into a £60m contract covering support for 35 ageing apps that the courts service continues to rely on.

In its recently published dedicated departmental cyber strategy, the MoJ revealed that it maintains a cumulative total of “over 1,000 IT services used to run large operational processes, [of which] under 100 are judged to be modern digital services”.

Sam Trendall

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