by Leo King

Ministry of Justice reprimanded over poor prison data

Nov 05, 2009
GovernmentIT LeadershipIT Strategy

The National Offender Management Servicemust “get its act together” and collect proper data on prison maintenance, according to the Committee of Public Accounts.

The department, part of the Ministry of Justice, “lacks the basic performance and cost data it needs” to measure prison maintenance and to manage its assets, the committee said. It also has “poor” performance management systems.

Maintenance costs had remained largely flat last year at £320 million in spite of the system problems, but there was “plenty of scope” for system improvement, the committee stated. Basic information on how well prisons were carrying out maintenance tasks was not being produced locally or analysed centrally.

Data held is so widely variable that maintenance staff said half of their everyday work was generated by prisoner vandalism, while officially recorded data states vandals create under 0.5 per cent of the work.

The systems are so lacking that targets for maintenance staff are effectively “useless”, the MPs said. They added that uncompleted maintenance tasks are not included when performance is measured, “so everyone gets top marks”. The problems were also causing NOMS difficulty in managing contractors.

The software and processes involved also fail to “systematically analyse” whole life costs of the prison estate, when deciding to carry out repairs or rebuild prison wings and facilities.

In order to address the problems NOMS is currently rolling out the Planet FM system, from facilities management supplier Qube. The system will hold all regional data centrally.

Edward Leigh, chairman of the committee, said that NOMS “must work hard to tighten up its systems for collecting and analysing data”.

Today’s damning report is published only days after the committee branded NOMS’ C-Nomis database of offenders as a £700 million “shambles”. In that report NOMS was accused of “stupidity” after project costs spiralled “out of control” and the government was forced to scale down the entire programme.

Read the views of the Youth Justice Board CIO here.