Failed i6 project leaves urgent need to deliver police IT requirements

Caroline Gardner

A project to build a national IT system for Police Scotland followed good practice in its early stages but ultimately collapsed due to a “damaging loss of trust” between those involved and fundamental disagreements about what the programme needed to deliver, according to an auditor’s report.

Audit Scotland has found that recommended good practice was followed in the planning and procurement of the i6 programme, which was expected to generate potential efficiency savings of around £200 million over 10 years for Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA).

However, the successful contractor, Accenture, underestimated the complexity of the “highly ambitious” programme and the resources needed to develop it.

Despite 18 months of pre-award discussion, Police Scotland and Accenture disagreed within weeks about whether the proposed system would deliver the contract requirements. This led to a rapid loss of trust which never fully recovered, and recurring disputes about the project’s scope.

Police Scotland, the SPA and the Scottish government strongly challenged Accenture on delays and serious problems with the project but received regular assurances that the system would be delivered.

The programme design meant that fundamental flaws and serious errors only became clear when the system was passed to Police Scotland for testing in August 2015.

Significant public and political scrutiny on the outcomes of police reform also added to a determination of all parties to deliver the system, regardless of growing challenges.

The programme was terminated in July 2016 and the SPA agreed a £24.7 million settlement from Accenture. This refunded the £11.1 million in payments to date, as well as a £13.6 million settlement.

The failure of the i6 programme means that some benefits of police reform have been, at best, delayed. There are also wider implications for the modernisation of Scotland’s justice system and delivery of the Scottish government’s Justice Digital Strategy.

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.”

Mary Fee MSP, convener of the justice sub-committee on policing, added: “This report lays bare the serious shortcomings in the relationship between Accenture, Police Scotland and the SPA, and builds on work that the Sub-Committee did in the previous session.

“It is important that lessons are learned and improvements made. The justice sub-committee on policing will be scrutinising this report in more depth later this month.”

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