Home Office reviews ESN oversight processes

Written by Beckie Smith on 4 October 2019 in News
News

As concerns about timescales linger, department looks at ways to ensure success of programme’s ‘ramp-up phase’

Credit: Adobe Stock Images

The Home Office is reviewing the way its Emergency Service Network programme is managed, amid concerns that completion of the much-delayed and over-budget programme could be pushed back yet further.

The projected cost of the programme to replace the communications network for emergency services including police and fire brigades has risen by nearly 50% since work began in 2011, to £9.3bn. The switch to ESN from the existing network, Airwave is not expected to happen until December 2022 at the earliest – three years later than originally planned.

In a May report, the Public Accounts Committee said the Home Office had failed to “get a grip” on whether it can deliver its Emergency Services Network programme despite extending its budget and deadline multiple times.

Responding in a Treasury minute this week, the Home Office said that it is now “reviewing ESN’s governance and management structure to ensure it will support the ramp up phase of delivery”.


Related content


“Parts of the new governance structure have been implemented following consultation with the suppliers, users and the funding sponsoring bodies,” it added.

It has set up an independent assurance panel, including “senior representatives with a wealth of experience of major programmes and the telecoms sector” to advise the department on the programme, the response said.

The panel has agreed a programme of work “based upon the challenges currently being faced by the introduction of ESN”, it said.

“Any outcomes from these reviews will be disseminated across the department and other funding organisations and will both aid and provide assurance to the Home Office accounting officer and the senior responsible owner,” it added.

The department said it was also strengthening oversight of the project at senior level as part of the review.

PAC had called for strengthened oversight of the programme, after concluding that warning signs that the programme could fail were missed because of an “unhealthy, ‘good news’ culture” in the department.

Elsewhere in the response, the Home Office confirmed that it had pushed back the planned publication of its revised business case for the programme by two months to March next year.

Plans submitted to the National Audit Office earlier this year said it planned to complete the business case by January.

The delay is happening despite PAC’s call to publish a “revised and approved business” case by the end of 2019 at the latest.

The department said that while it expected to complete the plan for the business case by the end of the year, the approvals process is “likely to take a little longer, and we are targeting the end of 2019-20 for that”.

But the department did confirm it would come up with a “Plan B” in case the programme cannot be delivered or provide value for money, as recommended by the NAO in May.

“The revised business case includes a value for money options analysis, including plan B options in the event that ESN proves undeliverable or no longer provides value for money,” the department said.

 

About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World, where this story first appeared. She tweets as @Beckie__Smith.

Share this page

Tags

Categories

CONTRIBUTIONS FROM READERS

Please login to post a comment or register for a free account.

Related Articles

Interview: NHS CCIO on why transformation needs to be driven locally
16 October 2019

Simon Eccles talks to Gill Hitchcock about AI, apps, open APIs and uniting innovative SMEs with clinicians to transform the health service

HMRC floats £24m in contracts to support key digital platforms
10 October 2019

Up to four suppliers to be appointed to deals to provide services for digital tax and transaction-monitoring systems

What can the public sector learn from start-up culture?
10 October 2019

While it might not need the beer fridges and bean bags, the NHS could learn something from the employee-engagement fostered by start-ups, believes Anas Nader of Patchwork Health

GDPR blamed for doubling of Whitehall’s recorded data breaches
8 October 2019

Some departments report vast increases following introduction of new data-protection legislation