Parliament has condemned the conduct of Atos and the Department of Health for their collective failure to provide a satisfactory patient record system.
Years of delays have dogged the project, while budgetary issues have also been a major concern.
The system has overrun its budget significantly, causing MPs to criticise the project.
Parliament recommended that the government “undertakes a full review” of all the services the company provides to the UK public sector.
Atos is one of the biggest companies of its type in the world, and achieved revenue well in excess of £1 billion in the previous financial year.
Yet the patient record system has evidently been a massive problem for both Atos and the Department of Health, and now the Public Accounts Committee and the Commons Committee have stepped in to rectify the situation.
The Public Accounts Committee commented that those managing the project, which is designed to give central health bodies access to local patient data held in doctors’ surgeries, had not learnt form past mistakes.
Meanwhile, the Commons Committee, which scrutinises government spending, accused the department of repeatedly failing to put in place proper governance, and the supplier of “taking advantage” of the situation.
The failure to progress the project as intended has forced customers to rely on alternative sources of information in the meantime.
Costs have elevated rapidly from the original estimate of £14 million which was submitted by Atos, reaching over £40 million ince the project was launched in 2007.
While MPs were critical of the department, they also said Atos did not show an “appropriate duty of care to the taxpayer”, acting largely in its own short-term interests. Adrian Gregory, the company’s chief executive, “appeared rather indifferent” when testifying to the committee.
Commenting on the issue, Richard Bacon, a Conservative MP who forms part of the Public Accounts Committee, suggested that the conduct of Atos was rather in keeping with its reputation.
“They do have quite a reputation, which is why I am very keen that the Cabinet Office takes a proper look at all the services Atos provides. We expect suppliers to take a more rounded view of the project and not simply dot the “I”s and cross the “T”s and there is a particular responsibility when the client is the taxpayer.”
Atos has previously been involved in numerous government projects, and seems to have no difficulty in acquiring new contracts.
But it singularly failed to deliver a successful system with the ability to assess welfare claimants’ ability to work, ultimately resulting in the cancellation of this Department for Work and Pensions contract.