$140mn down the drain: MI5 reportedly scraps failed IT project

$140mn down the drain: MI5 reportedly scraps failed IT project
UK intelligence agency MI5 reportedly terminated a failed multimillion-dollar IT project to centralize the agency’s data stores. The system was supposed to be ready ahead of last year’s London Olympics, but the consultants hired by MI5 failed to deliver.

The new digital records management (RM) system was supposed to allow for search queries and returns of various MI5 data and records, from intelligence reports to older paper archives. The RM was intended to replace the existing system, which the agency has deemed outdated and unfit in light of the threats the country currently faces.

The new RM was supposed to go online by time the Summer Olympics began in London last year, in order to help the UK’s intelligence agencies identify possible terrorist threats to the games. But in July 2012, only weeks before the event, MI5 fired the IT consulting firm responsible for the system’s development, as it had failed to meet deadlines.

Then-director of MI5 Sir Jonathan Evans said the system would be implemented at a later date, and the agency hired new IT consultants to finish the job.

But according to the Independent, the project failed to play out, and earlier this year Evans decided to scrap it altogether and restart from scratch with a new generation of IT specialists. The newspaper reported that the abandonment of years of progress means the loss of about £90 million pounds (about $140 million). The UK’s Home Office would not comment on either the fate of the project or the reported loss figure.

In 2012, when the RM's troubles were first revealed, some British media estimated the cost of the project to be considerably lower; the Daily Mail believed the program’s cost to be about £1 million (over $1.5 million).