Another public-sector procurement fiasco emerges

1 min read

Being able to provide mission critical communications to the UK’s emergency services is essential and the UK government, back in 2015, decided to replace the existing Airwave Network with a new Emergency Service Network (ESN).

Intended to save money, while providing a vastly improved service for emergency services across England, Scotland and Wales, it has now become apparent that it is facing a significant delay of several years before it’s ready to go live.

Estimates suggested that ESN would generate savings upwards of £200million a year and it was claimed that it would be more flexible, enabling users to exchange data and images more easily. The new service would see the replacement of, essentially, old-fashioned brick phones with smartphones.

Instead, in what is a long line of botched public-sector procurements, the costs of the project look set to spiral, due to this three-year delay. Rather than 2019, as originally intended, it is now unlikely that the deployment of ESN will take place any sooner than 2022.

That delay is set to cost the UK taxpayer over £1.2billion and the emergency services are now looking to have to cover additional annual costs of £400m. Development and set-up costs are expected to add an additional £200m to that.

Last year the Public Accounts Committee warned that the 2019 operational deadline was unlikely to be achieved, and it now seems that the Home Office has quietly confirmed those worries.

Overly ambitious and far too optimistic? It seems that yet again the pressure to roll out an untried technology, without adequate testing or sensible costings, has back-fired.

Far too few bidders for a very complex technical project and everything being created from new should have raised some concerns but, yet again, warnings were ignored.

One company has benefitted from this though – Motorola.

Not only does the company own the Airwave Network but it’s also the lead partner in the ESN project.

A case of tails I win, and heads……I win!