Extracts from the House of Commons Select Committee on Public Accounts    1999.



5. In his report, the Comptroller and Auditor General drew attention to a note to the Class I, Vote 1 Appropriation Account. The note described a loss of 34.6 million arising from a decision not to proceed with an information technology project, known as Trawlerman. The project related to the development of a computer system for the Defence Intelligence Staff. Treasury approval for the project had been given in February 1988, and in July of that year a contract, valued at 32.1 million, had been awarded for the supply and installation of the necessary equipment.

6. The Department formally accepted the system in January 1995. In the seven years between the award of the contract and acceptance of the system, however, general developments in information technology and in health and safety legislation meant that the Trawlerman system could not meet the needs of the Defence Intelligence staff. Specifically, the original specification had not included a requirement for the system to be capable of being linked to other computer systems, but by 1995 this requirement was viewed as essential. Following a review to see how the system could be modernised, in November 1996 the Department abandoned the project.

7. The Committee asked the Department what had gone wrong to result in them spending 34.6 million on a computer system which they never used. In evidence supplied subsequently, the Department informed us that, following further investigation, they had now assessed the total loss on the project to be 40.7 million. They told us that the requirements for Trawlerman had been determined in the mid-1980s using the best available expertise there was at the time. The intelligence staff had required highly secure storage and processing of information in a number of discrete security compartments. It had had to be a bespoke system as, in the mid-1980s, there had been nothing that could have done this off-the-shelf. Indeed, the security specification was so high that there was probably nothing that could do it, even now. The project had been over-ambitious and the Department had relied too much on what industry had told them it could deliver. It had not been able to deliver those things in the timescale set.The Department added that although the system had eventually been brought home successfully, by the time it had arrived it had been obsolete, technology had moved on, the world had moved on in terms of the end of the Cold War, and there were different requirements for intelligence gathering.