Home Office reviews ESN oversight processes

Written by Beckie Smith on 4 October 2019 in 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




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

Related Articles

HMRC approved for £120m in contract extensions with Accenture and BT
27 May 2020

Newly published spend-control data shows that deals were awarded to extend service provision until 2022

Analysis: which departments are seeking digital outcomes?
27 April 2020

The Digital Marketplace, and the frameworks it supports, are designed to help Whitehall procure in an agile way. But PublicTechnology finds the frequency and type of usage varies...

Related Sponsored Articles

Interview: CyberArk EMEA chief on how government has become a security leader
29 May 2020

PublicTechnology talks to Rich Turner about why organisations need to adopt a ‘risk-based approach’ to security – but first make sure they get the basics right

Accelerating sustainability in the age of disruption
21 May 2020

HPE shows why organisations are increasingly seeking to understand and consider the environmental impacts of their IT purchasing decisions