‘No single reason’ why Police Scotland i6 IT project failed, Audit Scotland concludes
Police Scotland officers - Image credit: Ninian Reid via Flickr
There was “no single reason” why the Police Scotland i6 computer system project failed, a report from Audit Scotland has concluded.
The report finds that good practice was followed in the planning and procurement stages of the ambitious project, which was intended to replace 130 electronic and paper-based systems covering 80 per cent of police processes for recording crime and missing persons.
Multinational professional services company Accenture was awarded a ten-year, £46.11m contract to provide the i6 computer system to Police Scotland by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) in 2013, with projected savings of £200m to the authority and Police Scotland.
However, the “complex and ambitious programme” suffered early on as Police Scotland and the contractor disagreed over the terms of the contract, leading to “damaged relationships and trust between the two organisations from a very early stage.”
There was also an issue with the waterfall approach used to produce the software – common at the time the project was commissioned – which meant that each stage was dependent on the previous one and the system could not be tested by police until it was almost complete.
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Determination on both sides to deliver the programme may have led to “optimism bias” and a failure to call a halt to the programme earlier.
Accenture had originally planned to re-use a system that it had designed for the Spanish Guardia Civil, but it became clear over the course of the project that it would not meet requirements, with Audit Scotland referring to an “overreliance” on this existing system.
In the end Accenture would have needed eight times the resources it allocated in the original contract to be able to complete the i6 project, Police Scotland estimated.
The project, originally due to go live in September 2014 and be rolled out across the country in 2015, was finally shelved in July 2016.
Referring to the delivery phase of the project, the report notes: “Police Scotland concluded that Accenture had underestimated the complexity of the system and had, at contract stage, overstated its own ability to deliver i6 within the timescales and fixed price agreed.
“The belief that the majority of the system could be based on the system that Accenture had provided to the Guardia Civil was incorrect.
“It had become clear a virtually fully bespoke system was required.”
No money was lost as Accenture agreed to refund the £11.09m that the SPA had already paid, and make an additional payment of £13.56m for estimated staff costs and capital costs associated with i6 when the contract was terminated.
However, the failure of the project has caused a delay to much needed updates to IT for Scottish policing, meaning officers are, and will be for the foreseeable future, using outdated technology.
The report notes: “The i6 programme was a key component of police reform. Its failure means that some of the benefits that should have arisen from implementing it, have been, at best, delayed.
“There was a need to modernise police ICT systems six years ago when the procurement of i6 began.
“That need has not been met. Police officers and staff continue to struggle with out-of-date, inefficient and poorly integrated systems.
“This also hinders how Police Scotland interacts and shares information and intelligence with the other parts of the justice system.
“There is an urgent need to determine what the next steps should be, and to carry out an honest assessment of how to procure, develop and deliver the much-needed police IT system.”
Caroline Gardner, Auditor General for Scotland, said: "Modern policing faces financial and operational challenges.
“Given the role that i6 was to play in police reform, there is an urgent need for a frank assessment of Police Scotland's IT requirements, and how these can be delivered alongside the vision set out in the recent Policing 2026 draft strategy."
Improved computer systems are a key component of the SPA and Police Scotland’s Policing 2026 strategy, published in draft form last week, with planned efficiency savings to come from reducing staff time on back office processes.
Details of the improved IT systems will be have yet to be published.
Commenting on the review, Lib Dem justice spokesperson Liam McArthur said: “This report shows a project that was doomed to fail from day one.
“Dogged by miscommunication and false expectations, everyone involved stuck their fingers in their ears and carried on regardless.
“They were blinkered by the need to avoid the i6 programme becoming the latest in a string of debacles resulting from the SNP’s chaotic police centralisation. They deemed it too big to fail.
“Years of work has all been for nothing. The frustration that any police officer must be feeling when reading this report is entirely justifiable.
“They will be stuck using dysfunctional IT systems for many more years. The benefits centralisation promised them haven’t materialised.
“SNP ministers and the police need to explain what lessons have been learned from this sorry episode, particularly as they move towards merging the British Transport Police, and how they will now bring the national force’s IT into the 21st century.”
The Greens’ justice spokesperson, John Finnie, was less critical, saying: “Audit Scotland correctly point out that the company which won this £46million project were 'strongly challenged' by Police Scotland, the Police Authority and the Scottish Government and, indeed the Parliament’s Police Committee, of which I’m a member.
“Whilst the police service has come out the other end of this sorry affair with both its reputation and finances intact it still hasn’t the robust information systems it sought and clearly needs.
“Police Scotland’s ‘2026 draft strategy’ focuses on the future of policing. It’s self-evident that information technology will be key to that future and I endorse the Auditor General’s comment that there is 'an urgent need for a frank assessment of Police Scotland’s IT requirements.”
Scottish Labour deputy justice spokesperson and chair of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Sub-Committee on Policing Mary Fee commented: “While it is reassuring Police Scotland followed good practice initially, it is deeply concerning that this project went seriously wrong so quickly.
“We know the potential benefits of police reform have, at the very least, now been delayed.
“Potential savings of £200million have also been lost – money that could have been used to give much-needed support to the hard-working men and women of our police force.
“Instead, the SNP has presided over another IT debacle – and it is deeply concerning the full extent of the project’s failure was not realised until police started to test it.
“We need to see leadership from the Scottish Police Authority, Police Scotland and the Government to ensure lessons are learned and the controversies that have hit the force in its early years will not be repeated.”
Fee said the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Sub-Committee on Policing will be considering the report in depth later this month.
The i6 is just one of a number of failed public sector IT projects and Audit Scotland will publish a report on lessons that can be learned from them in May.