BBC blasted over £100m IT project

Maldon and Burnham Standard: The BBC has come under fire over its failed IT project. The BBC has come under fire over its failed IT project.

Key controls on a scrapped digital project which wasted almost £100 million of licence fee cash were "not fit for purpose", a report found today.

The DMI initiative was closed down in May of this year when the corporation decided there was no point in ploughing further cash into it and a report was commissioned to review what lessons could be learned.

The report published today found s erious weaknesses around the way the project was run which allowed it to slip further into trouble, but failed to identify any single cause or issue which led to the difficulties.

DMI was being developed to allow BBC staff to create, share and manage video content at their desks.

But following the publication of today's report, compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the project was blasted for the " unacceptable cost to licence fee payers" by Diana Coyle, the vice chairman of the BBC Trust.

Dominic Coles, the BBC's Director of Operations, said: "While the BBC has a strong history of delivering complex projects such as BBC iPlayer, the digital Olympics or major property moves, we got this one wrong which we regret.

"We know it is vital to spot problems early, which is why we have overhauled how these projects are run to ensure this doesn't happen again."

The report compiled at a cost of more than a quarter of a million pounds, found numerous areas were "not fit for purpose" including governance of the project, arrangements for reporting progress to BBC bosses and risk management.

The report lays down a number of recommendations for management of future major projects at the corporation.

The corporation's chief technology officer John Linwood, who was paid £280,000 a year, was suspended on full pay pending the outcome of investigations.

The BBC would not give an update today. A spokesman said: "We cannot comment as there is an on-going process."

The BBC executive welcomed the report and accepted its findings. In a statement it added: " Whilst the BBC clearly has a responsibility to keep ambitious technology projects under control, it is also our duty to bring innovation to the market.

"Of course, such technology projects always carry a risk of failure. Nevertheless, to deliver our strategy and bring value to the digital economy, the BBC will continue to innovate and develop new technologies."

The BBC Trust said: "We believe that by being clear about the mistakes which have been made, and by identifying the actions needed to rectify them, the PwC report will help to ensure that there will be no repeat of a failure on the scale of DMI."

The corporation's chief technology officer John Linwood, who was paid £280,000 a year, was earlier this year suspended on full pay pending the outcome of investigations.

The BBC would not give an update on his position today. A spokesman said: "We cannot comment as there is an on-going process."

Last week the BBC executive and BBC Trust announced new governance arrangements for overseeing big projects.

The report says that if tighter controls were in place, difficulties could have been identified far sooner, although it is not possible to predict what would have happened.

It said: "We are of the view that had appropriate governance, risk management and reporting arrangements been established from the outset, then the process of preparing a revised Business Case for DMI could have been commenced as early as July 2011.

"It is not possible to predict how long this process would have taken or what the outcome would have been, but in retrospect it is clear that the project would have benefited from this greater scrutiny at this earlier stage."

A separate report by the National Audit Office into DMI is expected to be published early next year.

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