The Dutch government is wasting between €1bn and €5bn a year on failing IT projects, says a parliamentary commission set up to look at a number of headline cases.
This ‘cautious estimate’ is an ‘unacceptably high amount’, the commission said in its report which was published on Wednesday.
‘The government often fails to keep control of its IT projects in terms of cost, timing and the end result,’ the commission said.
Coming up with an exact figure of how much the government wastes on IT is impossible because ‘no one knows how much it spends’. But based on expert opinion the figure can be put at between €1bn and €5bn a year.
Parliament is also failing to properly monitor IT projects because of a lack of interest and expertise and projects are being undertaken with unrealistic expectations.
Among the 34 recommendations for improvement, the commission says a special committee should be set up to supervise projects with a budget of over €5m. The green light for such projects should only be given once the technical, management and organisation risks have been assessed.
What is ICT?
Parliament chairwoman Anouchka van Miltenburg made a major gaffe while accepting the report by saying she had had to ‘google ICT’ to find out what it meant.
The Netherlands uses ICT to cover information and communications technology, rather than IT like most of the world.
‘This is a real low point,’ IT entrepreneur Rene Veldwijk who was watching the proceedings told the Telegraf. ‘People are being cute about their ignorance.’
The commission was set up to look at six government IT projects which ran into serious trouble, and held its first interviews at the end of April. The NRC sums them up as follows:
• mGBA: modernising the local government registration system (births, marriages, deaths and address).
• Ov-chipkaart: smart card for public transport which was expensive and did not have enough loading stations.
• C2000: a new communication system for the emergency services which cost twice the budget and still has operating problems.
• EPD: a centralised system for storing patients’ medical records which floundered in the upper house of parliament because of concerns about privacy.
• Werk.nl: jobs website run by the UWV benefit centres which has been beset by computer failure
• A73 tunnels: a security system for tunnels on the A73 highway which did not work, leading to months of tunnel closures.
During the hearings information science professor Hans Mulder told the committee just 7% of the projects with a budget starting at €7.5m can be said to be successful. In total, 70% of projects fail.
Of those which flop, 36% fail so seriously the new system is never used and around half are of doubtful value because they turn out to be too expensive, take too long or produce unexpected results, Mulder said.
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