LIDS / NOMIS / OASys - The Home Office systems that are on the edge of collapse - are PA the dog to kick or should it be Sir John Gieve ? Again ?
If you go to the Ministry of Justice website you can, in their section on Offender Management read about "End-to-end offender management " which ,"ensures that offenders are offered the best possible opportunity to change their offending behaviour. "
To do this the (old) Home Office embarked on the The National Offender Management Information System (NOMIS) system ...this was designed to "replace ailing legacy case management and offender assessment applications in public prisons and probation."
Three public sector prisons already use the live system - the first in 2006 was HM Prison Albany on the Isle of Wight. That's the position today, same as it was when Rebecca Thomson wrote an article on January 9th this year in Computer Weekly Government scales down prison IT project after costs spiral
The C-Nomis system was to cost £234m. The National Association of Probation Officers estimated that the full national roll-out would eventually cost £950m.
Furthermore the roll-out to the probation service had to be abandoned, and probation officers will have read-only access to the files once the system is installed throughout the prison service. Ho.Ho.Ho.
Prisons minister, David Hanson, told MPs that a revised timetable for the roll out would be published in the spring. Three prisons are already using the system - which is what the Ministry of Justice website is still saying and the roll out timetable is unaccountably delayed.
Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of Napo, said, "The whole C-Nomis project appears to have been badly managed since its inception. It is arguably an outrageous waste of public money. As a consequence of the problems, probation staff will now have to use systems that are not fit for purpose." See also the story on the web based "Scope" anti terrorist system that is 5 years late.
The situation for probation officers was handily outlined in the House of Commons by David Hanson (Minister of State, Ministry of Justice) on 26th February in answer to a question from David Drew (Labour) ..
There are currently no arrangements in place for staff in probation areas to read or record offender management information directly to or from the prison NOMIS database.C-NOMIS was to replace Local Inmate Database System (Lids) , Tony Collins wrote in his CW Blog in March that ..."A study by the Prison Service's main IT supplier EDS has found that more than 30,000 (37%) offenders did not have a criminal records number, and more than 21,000 (26%) did not have a police national computer number. The database contains records with made-up surnames such as "self-harm", and 194 offenders with no surname at all. More than 1,500 records contain no nationality information. "
Relevant offender information held on prison NOMIS is transferred between the prison and probation service staff using a system of jointly agreed offender management forms, secure e-mail and dedicated OM mailboxes.
The newly revised and deliverable NOMIS programme, will, through its constituent projects, provide a simple read-only database, that will allow staff in the community to have access to important information from prison NOMIS in support of offender management.
Later, on March 27th in his Blog he expanded with a piece " Errors in thousands of records in prisoner tracking system - internal EDS study" . This provides a lengthy and devastating anlysis of the problems with LIDS which Prison Service staff told him was due to be replaced in 1997.
Beyond the many problems of LIDS it also feeds further internal systems, data in Lids provides some raw data for the Offender Assessment and Sentence Management - OASys which is an aid to assess how likely an offender is to be reconvicted.
The Inmate Information System which helps control the bulging and ever expnding prison population of 83,000+ is based on overnight updates from the Lids system.
Transferring data from this crumbling system, must be a nightmare. Evidently the code must be ancient .. database fields designating nationality include the Soviet Union , dissolved in 1991, and for East and West Germany to be treated as separate countries as though the 1990 unificaton hadn't happened.
With such antique code it must be difficult to obtain people who can nurse it along - there is no career in honing up your skills in Fortran and Cobol.
In the context of this nightmare we have the fact that a PA consultant downloaded the complete LIDS database, which must have been to undertake some serious analysis of the accuracy and content of the curent system.
The Daily Telegraph today show that PA Consulting have received £240m for Government contracts in recent years including £100m by the Home Office for the ID card scheme and other work and £35m to work on new biometric visas for the Foreign Office.
Between 2004 and 2007 the company also picked up at least £31m from the Department for Work and Pensions, £20m from the Department for Communities and Local Government, £17m from the Ministry of Defence, £16m from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, £9m from the Department for Education and its successors and £3.5m from the Cabinet Office.
In short and from personal experience PA are a bright bunch with an impressive record.
The Daily Telegraph also disclose that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was last night under pressure to explain why the Home Office, which had known about the loss since Monday (18th), had not made it public for three days when a whistleblower intervened.
Which leaves one wondering how PA "lost" the memory stick and why a "whistelblower" so wanted the information in the public domain.
A member of staff has been suspended says a spokesman for PA Consulting, "We are collaborating with the Home Office very closely on this matter and we have no further comment to make."
The public have every reason to be concerned. Not that an unencrypted version of LIDS is on a memory stick.
The public and their MP's should be concerned that the overcrowded prisons, the understaffed Probation service, who have difficulty recruiting and keeping staff, are left to manage the prisons with such a failed system which is evidently, totally and completely "unfit for purpose".
It is evident that this is a problem, about which many people have been aware for a long time. The brou ha ha over the "lost" memory stick will of course deflect public attention away from the real problem, envelop discussion in a sub judice cloud of much beloved Home Office secrecy and provide the public with a dog to kick in the guise of overpaid fat cat consultants.
The origins of this shambles (to be fair to Jacqui Smith who inherited this toxic waste of public money) lies at the time when Sir John Gieve was Permanent Secretary, at the Home Office, enabling his boss to secure a visa for his mistress's au pair and producing accounts that the Auditor could not pass... who then went on to greater things overseeing the wreck of the Rock (costing at least £20 Bn, so far) whilst at the Bank of England from whence he has had an early bath.