Dear Mr Fletcher,
I was working for the London Probation Service in 2004 when this system was first proposed. I am a software engineering graduate and while I worked for the LPS I often spoke to the head office IS department. While I was there an extremely cheap web-based system was proposed to be developed “in house” and got as far as a fully functioning prototype being produced. This system could have been maintained by a very small number of people and, most importantly, because it was web based it could be updated to reflect process changes very quickly.
This system was rejected because the Home Office decided that a “standard system” for the whole of the just-created NOMS had to be put in place. They awarded the hugely expensive contract to a 3rd party American software company to tailor an existing monolithic application. A significant number of people in the LPS IS department resigned over the decision including the head of software development.
I am unsurprised to see this arrogance coming back to bite the government 3 years later. Instead of a fully working, highly adaptable and most importantly cheap system (so the majority of NOMS money can go where it is supposed to – in supporting the work of the POs and CSOs) that could have been in place within 6 months we have yet another government IT disaster.
I only hope that some lessons can be learnt this time.