A reseller has been criticised for its part in a failed IT project with Surrey Police which left the force almost £15m out of pocket when it was axed last year.
In a report released today, Scottish VAR Memex Technology – which worked with the force ahead of being acquired by SAS – came under fire for its role in the Surrey Integrated Reporting Enterprise Network (SIREN) project.
SIREN aimed to overhaul the design, development and implementation of a core suite of ICT products at Surrey Police and was first thought up in 2007. But by April 2013 – after concerns had been raised by some close to the project – the decision was taken to axe it, leaving the force picking up the £14.84m bill.
The 53-page report, compiled by public interest auditor Grant Thornton, claims Surrey Police had good intentions for "genuine transformative change" and said that Memex itself was not solely to blame for the project's failure.
But it added that the duo failed to deliver.
"The ambitious vision for SIREN was not matched by the skills and experience available to, and deployed by, the force for a major portion of the project's life," the report said. "The force was not experienced in delivering projects of this type and complexity and the chosen supplier, Memex Technology, did not make up for this shortfall in terms of managing the risk to delivery."
The report pointed to numerous failings in the project, including the lack of skilled staff members, overstatement of the scheme's benefits and lack of clarity on the level of risk involved.
"Reporting was rose tinted and not always representative of actual progress made by the project," it added. "Risk of, and actual, non-delivery was often underplayed and the likelihood of the project's overall success was overly optimistic."
Memex was selected for being the cheapest bidder after it and the two others shortlisted were offered the chance to submit a best-and-final price. The report said although this cut costs, it "may have impacted on the ability [for Memex] to deliver".
Surrey Police was given the chance to abandon the project when Memex was acquired in 2010 by SAS, but it declined to do so.
The report said the force's decision to take a tailor-made solution from Memex was another key failing.
"We did not identify evidence to suggest that Memex was the wrong choice of supplier, having scored well during the process and being an existing supplier to the Metropolitan Police Service," it said.
"However, in choosing a tailored development solution rather than an off-the-shelf solution, the force chose an inherently riskier option."
Memex-owner SAS was not available to comment at the time of publication.
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