Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has robustly countered accusations made by The Times newspaper that the government has wasted £31bn since being in office and would waste more if it does not sharpen its focus on cutting costs.
In his rebuttal to the Times article, entitled "Whitehall waste: the £31 billion cost of failure", Maude gives details of general cost cutting measures undertaken since the Coalition was elected in May 2010 that he claims saved £3.75bn between 2010 and 2011, and highlights IT-related initiatives that are predicted to deliver cost savings of £1.4bn by 2014.
In a statement, Maude points to the renegotiation of IT contracts, tackling vested interests and collaborative procurement, with the latter expected to deliver £3bn in savings a year, as key components of the government's cost-cutting strategy.
The government claims to have won £800m in concesssions as a result of a renegotiation of contracts with 19 large IT suppliers, which began in 2010.
The ICT strategy, released in March last year, also promised to end the oligopoly of IT suppliers within government, thereby reducing the hold of vested interests, and there has subsequently been a marked increase in services delivered to government by small and medium-sized businesses.
Maude said in the statement: "This process has not been easy; spending hours renegotiating contracts, tackling vested interests and large suppliers does not make for glamorous or headline-grabbing work."
However, Maude does recognise there is still work to do, and said: "We are now looking to clamp down on the loss of revenue through fraud, error and debt; and this tough new approach also extends to big projects. Gone are the days when projects began with no agreed budget, no business case and unrealistic delivery timetables.
"The introduction of our Major Projects Authority marks a sea-change in the oversight of government's major projects and will achieve better value for public spending.
"And I am not alone in highlighting all the good work we have done so far; the Public Accounts Committee recently recognised and welcomed our transparent approach to savings. Meanwhile other countries, especially in troubled Europe, are now looking to us for how this is done," he added.
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