Friday, April 27, 2007

They didn't deliver what we paid for. So why should we pay to fix it?

I realise web standards, accessibility and the like are quite esoteric but hear me out on this one before you click away. Between 2003 and 2006 the Department of Trade Industry went through a web development phase with their site. The job of designing their site was contracted out to a company called Fresh 01 (with Fujisu supplying the Content Management System infrastructure).

Fresh 01 were then given a scope and specifications requirement along with the relevant accessibility requirements as issued by the Cabinet Office for all government websites in order that they comply with Single A Wc3 standards and endeavour to comply with AA if they can.

The site was built at a cost of £170,000 (under budget by £25,000) and went live, proudly boasting that it was AA compliant. Then, in May last year they discovered that actually the site wasn't AA compliant at all. In fact they discovered it wasn't even Single A compliant. The logos were removed and the a "plan" was put in place to fix it.

At the time, the DTI made clear that whilst Fresh 01 had been given compliance as a requirement for the design, the DTI would instead cover the cost for fixing the site. It was under budget by £25,000 after all, a little bit of cash spare should cover it right?

Well, here we are, almost a year later and the site remains exactly the same as it did when the compliance logos were removed. So what's going on? Well, they do indeed have a plan, and they have a "technical work stream" beavering away on it, with a completion date of sometime near the end of the 2007.

So 18 months isn't very efficient, but hey, they're fixing it right so that the website is in line with the Government's own requirement. That's a good thing? Well maybe not. In order to fix the website that was broken from the start by a design company which failed to perform it's brief, it's costing us, the taxpayer, an extra £105,503. That's 60% of the original broken website cost.

Excuse me for a moment for being confused? But why should the taxpayer fund the fixing of something that they've already paid for but that wasn't what was requested? In the private sector there is no way a company would just shrug and say "ah well, we'll have to pay to fix it ourselves". OK, so it's not anything like the scale of the MTAS scandal, but at it's core the issue of non-delivered deliverable remains. The precedent doesn't bode well for the cost of fixing MTAS that's for sure.

On the bright side there are rumours that one of the first things Gordon Brown will do is scrap the DTI and split its briefs into other departments. In which case Brown would actually be saving the taxpayer money. Now there's a funny thing!

5 comments:

Mostly Ordinary said...

What amazes me about Government IT projects (and I've been around a few) is that they always have a flock of project managers grasping their PRINCE2 handbooks.

As PRINCE2 was a Government designed project managment methodology you have to wonder how good it is if it can't even deliver some of the core functionality?

I know a lot of people look at things like web standards and thing they are just something that nerdy web obessed geeks look into but there is a serious point to why public service sites should adhere to them. Many of the accessibly applications used by visually impaired people use these standards to render the pages into formats these people can understand.

james higham said...

Excuse me for a moment for being confused? But why should the taxpayer fund the fixing of something that they've already paid for but that wasn't what was requested?

Precisely - the public should not pay one penny for this. Now to the real problem.

A handful of sites like yours come across things like this but now the problem is how to bring this to the greater public, to the point where presure can be brought to bear and the correct heads roll, let alone saving the taxpayer X pounds.

Becasue it's all very well us talking to each other but the message must get out.

Chris Paul said...

Is this a bad contract? Or bad compliance? Or a financially weak contractor (that could not fix it free - i.e. would have to go bust). As you say nothing like MTAS scale. Lots of terrible IT going on in private sector and not a few cases of fixing things in spec, but only with extra payment.

dizzy said...

Lots of terrible IT going on in private sector and not a few cases of fixing things in spec, but only with extra payment.

examples?

Guido Faux said...

"Lots of terrible IT going on in private sector and not a few cases of fixing things in spec, but only with extra payment."

I seriously fucking doubt it.

We would be told in no uncertain terms where to go if we tried that on.