Public spending watchdog to review GDS

The National Audit Office (NAO) is set to review the performance of the Government Digital Service (GDS).

A recently published report says that the spending watchdog will examine the achievements made to date and the challenges faced by GDS. The move follows criticism by the NAO over GDS’s role in the botched Rural Payments Agency (RPA) IT systems that led to a new digital service for farm subsidies being withdrawn in March 2015.

“At this stage, we have not examined how GDS now engages with other government departments to ensure it offers the support needed,” the NAO said in a new progress report on the ‘fix’ of the RPA payment system. “However, the NAO will shortly be undertaking a review of GDS’s achievements and the challenges it faces, looking in particular at whether the centre of government is supporting better use of technology and business transformation in government.

“This recommendation was made in the context of senior management failures arising from the RPA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and GDS not working together effectively, and not being able to resolve differences in strategic priorities and visions. No changes have been made to formal processes in response to the recommendation; however, cultural changes are being made that aim to reduce tensions that may arise in the future. GDS is no longer significantly involved in the RPA programme.”

 

Failures

The report continued: “GDS had a significant involvement in the development of the IT systems and we reported previously that it did not provide the support the department needed.

“The RPA has continued developing the IT environment without further significant involvement of GDS. The RPA told us that GDS’s withdrawal from the programme has enabled a change in the implementation approach, including reverting to a more traditional deployment and release cycle rather than the continuous deployment approach that GDS had previously advocated.”

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