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UK — Information and Communications Technology in government Landscape Review

March 16, 2011 Comments off

Information and Communications Technology in government Landscape Review (PDF)
Source: National Audit Office

1 echnology
(ICT) has accelerated during the last two decades. Developments in technology have
created opportunities for government to deliver greater efficiency, while keeping pace
with citizens’ rising expectations about how they want to engage with government and
access public services and information online. ICT is an important contributor to social
mobility and economic growth. It is a significant area of government spending – an
estimated £16 billion per annum across government in 2009.

2 In the past, commentators have focused on government’s failure to deliver ICT
projects to time, budget and specification as well as the systemic reasons for these
failures. Government is not alone in experiencing problems with ICT; the private sector
also finds it hard to keep pace with the new skills, new technologies and new ways of
working that make companies competitive.

3 The past year has seen radical and rapid changes in the government’s approach
to ICT. This is due in part to constrained finances but it is also being driven by the
important role that information and technology has in opening up the delivery of more
public services to new providers. There have been new spending controls on ICT
introduced at the centre of government and rapid developments in some policy areas.
Government is considering new ways of working that could potentially introduce ICT that
is more adaptive, can keep pace with changing business requirements and enable new
systems to be brought into operation more quickly than historically has been the case.

4 Government is a knowledge-intensive business. Effective information and
technology are essential assets of government which all front line workers and civil
servants rely on. Information and technology go hand in hand and are crucial to
government’s ability to be better informed in its decision-making, build stronger
financial management and drive more cost effective delivery. These are the National
Audit Office’s three strategic themes, and our future work will take a close interest in
how government is making the most of ICT to secure efficiencies and enable new ways
of delivering public services at the same time as seeking to rationalise ICT to deliver
short-term cost savings.

5 This report has been prepared to inform the debate about government’s new
approach to ICT and describes the changes that are underway. It does not draw a
conclusion about the value for money of these initiatives as these are at an early stage.

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UK/EU – Managing the impact of changes in the value of the euro on EU funds

March 1, 2011 Comments off

Managing the impact of changes in the value of the euro on EU funds (PDF)
Source: National Audit Office

1 Each year the UK receives the equivalent of around £5 billion from the European Union (EU) to fund or part-fund payments to farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy and to support regeneration, training and other EU approved projects and programmes.

2 The funds provided by the EU are denominated in euros. However, UK departments make commitments and pay recipients in pounds. This gives rise to gains and losses to real funding levels caused by movements in the exchange rate between the pound and the euro. The euro has appreciated by more than 30 per cent since the credit crisis in 2007, but it has tended to depreciate since January 2009. The relative value of the pound and the euro is uncertain, and the exchange rate has fluctuated by up to 14 per cent in a single month.

3 Departments have to try to match spending in pounds as closely as possible to the equivalent value in euros. A 14 per cent change in the euro can entail an increase or decrease of £700 million in the value of the funds provided by the EU if the movement in exchange rates is sustained. At the end of most programmes there is a two-year period to settle prior commitments. Unused exchange rate gains cannot be utilised whilst, exchange rate losses may need to be covered by the UK taxpayer from within existing departmental budgets.

4 UK departments also spend around £3.5 billion a year to meet commitments in euros overseas. While an appreciation in the value of the euro will increase the amount of pounds available to the departments managing EU funds, it will also increase the amount of pounds those departments that spend euros abroad need.

5 This report examines how well the UK maximises the value of the euro funds it receives and reduces the risks of calls on the UK taxpayer from changes in the exchange rate.

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